The subject of artificial intelligence has been explored many times in science fiction. Spike Jonze’s latest, Her, tells of a man in the near future who falls in love with his computer operating system. Weird? Not for this genre. In fact, not so much in real life either. If you google otaku, you’ll read about men in Japan who prefer virtual relationships, making the subject matter of Her all the more alarmingly relevant.
The operating system of the film is called Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson, so perhaps that is why Joaquin Phoenix’s character Theodore falls in love with her. Melancholy and emotionally timid, Theodore has separated from his flesh and blood wife Catherine (Rooney Mara), and is desperately lonely, with only his friend Amy (Amy Adams) acting as an occasional shoulder to cry on. But his relationship with Samantha seems to give him a new lease of life. Can it last?
I can’t quite make up my mind if I like this film or not. It’s certainly well acted, the slightly-in-the-future concepts are well realised, and Jonze directs with a keenly atmospheric eye. But in spite of some darkly comic moments (including some outrageous sexual situations), I couldn’t quite suspend disbelief in the same way I could for, say, AI or Blade Runner. I also got the sense the film thought it was a lot more clever, important and original than it actually was. Her is thought provoking to a point, but it was also a strangely cold experience. There is no doubt that our present age is in serious danger of making technology a master rather than a servant, but I’ve seen these themes explored more convincingly and intriguingly in other works.
That said, Her is worth a look if you’re interested in the subject matter. Please bear in mind the afore-mentioned sexual situations and bad language, for those who like to be warned about such things.