Being in love is an amazing thing. It’s a feeling that is so unmatched and so consuming that it takes a complete hold of you. It creates energy. It’s sense of supreme comfort and togetherness that one has with their partner. It’s being connected. It’s an impenetrable bond. Love is powerful man. Love is real. All of these feelings resonated inside me while I watched Her, the beautiful new film written and directed by Spike Jonze, which hit theaters nationally this past Friday. I started to connect this movie to my own life and how I feel while being in love. And while watching this movie, I found myself become overtaken by emotion due to the simplicity, honesty, and beauty of Joaquin Phoenix’s emotional journey and ability to find love though his relationship with…an operating system.
I know you are probably thinking…what? An operating system? That can’t be real. And yes, you are correct. It’s extremely weird, semi-creepy, and definitely does not happen in real life. But this is a Spike Jonze love story and if you know anything about Spike Jonze it’s that he is unconventional dude and loves to think outside of the box. If you haven’t seen the previews or heard about this movie, this will be a little spoiler alert. Be warned. In Her, which takes place in the not too distant future, Joaquin Phoenix (who is exceptional in this film) plays Theordore Twombly, a lonely, isolated man, who is some what detached from personal relationships since his divorce. His heart is empty, yet his job is to write personal love letters for people who have difficulty expressing their feelings. Theodore is excellent with this. He can articulate the human emotion through word perfectly, yet he has difficulty connecting with women socially in his everyday world since his bitter breakup. To deal with his upcoming divorce to Catherine (played by Rooney Mara) Theodore purchases a talking operating system that has artificial intelligence designed to interact and evolve like a human being. He gives his OS a female identity and when given the opportunity to create a name, the OS calls herself Samantha. (played by Scarlett Johansson) Like any personal relationship can develop, Theodore starts to develop a relationship with Samantha. They talk every day. He expresses himself. He feels completely comfortable with being his true self around her. She begins to learn more about him and herself and has the uncanny ability to grow psychologically. She starts to develop feelings and emotions as the two bond about life and love. Theodore expresses to Samantha his reluctancy to sign the divorce papers with Catherine because he knows that will be him saying goodbye and officially the end to a love that he had cherished so strongly before. And what is true in life, you don’t find many true loves in ones lifetime. Love is a hard thing to find, which is what makes it so heartbreaking when it’s gone. There really isn’t a duplicate. Every experience that you have with someone new is it’s own entity and is something different. So I could see why Theodore was fearful emotionally of all that was now happening with Samantha especially due to his past relationship with Catherine, which didn’t end the way he wanted it to.
Theodore is set up on a blind date (with Olivia Wilde) through one oh his friends and neighbor, Amy (played by Amy Adams) has set him up with. Theodore gets encouragement from Samantha to go on this date. Things go really well between Theodore and this girl, but when they decide to have sex and she asks him about committing to her, he hesitates, and she freaks out and leaves him. Theodore discusses this expereince with Samantha and their relationship intesifies. They eventually become intimate and a full fledged couple. Samantha starts getting jealous over Theodore’s lingering affection for Catherine, who he needs to sign the divorce papers for. When Theodore mentions to Catherine that he is dating an operating system she lashes out at him for being in a relationship with a piece of machinery, which implies that he had trouble being present in their own relationship. She feels that he can’t connect with people, so she’s baffled that he is doing so with a computer device. Samantha later encourages Theodore to be intimate with the help of a surrogate (a real life human who Samantha has connected with and knows about her relationship with Theodore) that acts as Samantha’s body so they can actually be physical. Theodore reluctantly goes along with it but gets freaked out by the whole process and sends the surrogate away. This creates some tension between he and Samantha. Sex without love is just sex. He did not feel emotionally connected to this woman at all, which made him not want to be a part of it. He was in love with Samantha, not this random person who was intending to be Samantha.
To not give you the whole movie, Theodore finds it hard to maintain his level of emotional intimacy as the relationship continues. Both parties, himself and Samantha, encounter feelings of jealousy. He feels jealous when she begins interacting and falling in love with other OS’s and she becomes jealous with his harboring feelings toward Catherine. Although he understands the need to be able to be open with his romantic partner he is finiding that hard to do with a machine. He fell in love with the idea of another girl loving him, which happened to not be a real person. So his inability to connect emotionally with people is his lingering downfall and is something that hopefully from his experience with Samantha he will continue to work on in any future relationships that he has with women because he knows that he has the ability to love.
Her makes you think about our own relationships with humans and with technology. In today’s society, so many people are dependent on technology, whether thats their computers, their phones, or social media, that they forget at times how to interact with humans. People have become so attached to their online worlds that simple tasks such as meeting people out randomly and engaging in conversation is difficult for many to do, yet sitting behind our computers or our smart phones and typing out profiles or Facebook posts, or Tweets seems mindless and simple. And to that degree it is sad to see how technology has made personal relationships digress. Social media is a very powerful tool and is a huge game changer in how we receive, process, and interpret information. But it is not the end all or be all on how we live and certainly not on how we should love. At the end of the day as humans we need interactions with people to survive and thrive personally, physically, and emotionally. Receiving unconditional love from someone else is a feeling that can not be matched. It’s sacred. It’s fulfilling, and it’s vital to our lives. The ability to love someone and receive love back is an indescribable feeling that makes one feel appreciated, respected, and valued. For Theodore, he was able to experience this type of connection with Samantha. It is a feeling he once had with Catherine. And it’s a feeling that he may end up having with Amy or some other women that he meets when he opens up and allows himself to be loved.
I connected with this movie so strongly because it showed me how powerful love really is. I am lucky to be in love with someone who is incredibly special to me. She is an unbelievable woman who truly completes my heart. I have the love for her that Theodore had with Samantha, and once had with Catherine, and I feel that’s what we all want as humans. We want to feel connected to our partners. We want to be able to feel vulnerable and supported unconditionally. We want to be with people who makes us laugh and with whom we can be silly and playful with. We want to be with someone who understands, and is there to listen, hear our concerns and we do the same for them. We want someone who can be our best friend that we can 100 percent be our true selves around without judgement. And although people may experience this type of love at different times in their lives and with different people, it is something that is essential for us to grow as individuals. I am lucky to have that. Without love, life can be a narrow and lonely place. As important as technology is to our daily lives, it isn’t a necessity for survival. The internet and computers make functioning in life a lot easier. Just look at online dating. I think the internet is a great way for people to meet and match up commonalities and interests. But that doesn’t mean people have to stop meeting each other in coffee shops, at bars, through friends, or in the workplace. It doens’t mean that people have to stop taking risks and chances and open themselves up to new opportunities. It is just another means of being able to meet people to begin developing effective personal relationships. I will never knock Theodore’s relationship with an OS, because it was beautiful and it showcased his ability to feel for something again after experiencing a bitter ending, but in the long run, that relationship was not a real one and the OS couldn’t provide for him what a strong loving relationship with another human could. The OS is something that could be turned on and off, and it eventually vanished away from him. Real life just isn’t that easy. There is no on and off switch, and that’s why true love is real. Love is supposed to bring you an array of emotions. It’s unpredictable. It’s spontaneous. It’s overwhelming. But if you believe in it and allow yourself to embrace it, it’s the most powerful feeling that there is.
Her has been listed as one of the Top Ten films of the year by the American Film Institute.
Her won Best Film at the Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego Film Critics Associations< National Board of Review
Spike Jonze has won Best Screenplay for Her at the Golden Globe Awards, Alliance of Women Field Journalists, Chicago, Detroit, and Georgia Film Critics Associations, Kansas City Film Critics Circle, Online Film Critics Society, San Diego Film Crtics Society, St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association, and Washington DC Area Film Critics Association.
Spike Jonze won best director for Her at the National Board of Review.
The Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 16th.