What is the nature of a relationship? How do we connect with those around us? Is it possible to fall for someone who doesn't even exist on the physical plane? These questions form the foundation for the movie Her. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore, a lonely, divorced man who writes commissioned love letters for a living. When he decides to invest in an Artificial Intelligence operating system (brought to vibrant life through the voice work of Scarlett Johanssen), his life changes in unexpected ways as a romantic relationship begins to flourish.
Refreshingly, the movie does not turn Theodore and Samantha (the O.S.)'s story into a simple joke, the way a lesser film might have done. Theodore may be met with mixed reactions when he tells people he is dating his O.S., but by and large, he is not seen as a freak or a weirdo for doing so. In a world where technology isolates perhaps more than it connects, Theodore is lucky to find someone with whom he shares a true partnership. Even if that someone is a disembodied voice living inside computers. The film treats their relationship with both humor and gravitas; their story is by turns genuinely funny and genuinely devastating.
Directed by Spike Jonze, Theodore's story takes place in the not-too-distant future. Clothing and hairstyles evoke familiarity, but don't scream "futuristic" the way a boxy silver aesthetic might. Technology is advanced, but not outlandish. The world is recognizable, but not quite our own. It serves to both engage and isolate the audience from the proceedings, the same way so many characters are alternately engaged and isolated from their surroundings.
Despite a simple title which evokes a running Arrested Development gag ("Her?") and a premise that might seem off-putting to some, Her is a lovely, heartfelt film.