Thanks to the Internet and digital technology, humans now have more ways to communicate than ever before. In addition to snail mail and phone calls, people also Tweet their thoughts, compose countless emails, and post daily activities on Facebook.
Unfortunately, some folks don’t know how to simply sit down and talk to each other. It’s easy to see countless men and women hunched over smart phones and tablet computers in parks, coffee shops, and on the train. Though they are communicating with people living miles away, they may not acknowledge the person sitting right next to them.
That’s the message contained in “Her,” a charming and heartbreaking look at 21 st Century relationships. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a mild-mannered writer going through a painful divorce. Theodore spends his lonely after-work hours checking email messages and playing video games at home.
When a software company offers a revolutionary new operating system, Theodore agrees to download it and, to his surprise, his home system takes on a life of its own. Adapting to his needs, the operating system-which now calls herself Samantha–takes an active interest in him as a person. Over time, their relationship becomes even more complex and intimate.
Beautifully directed by Spike Jonze, “Her” is a look at how technology is a real two-edged sword. Jonze sets the story in a slightly futuristic world where Theodore Twombly produces beautifully hand-written letters for other people. In many ways, he knows more about his unseen clients than he does about his co-workers.
The characters in the story also wear clothing that while practical and functional is definitely not stylish. Theodore and his male friends favor loose-fitting slacks while women wear plain tops and pants. In this world, fashion seems to have gone out of fashion because people really don’t spend that much time with each other.
Joaquin Phoenix turns in a beautiful performance as an everyman whose life is turned upside-down by his divorce. Though he writes emotionally-charged letters for clients, he lives inside a technological cocoon listening to his messages through a device in his ear.
Scarlett Johansson also is outstanding as the voice of Samantha, the artificially intelligent operating system. Johansson takes her character on a wondrous journey of self-discovery. At first, Samantha acts like an eager child, but she starts to outgrow the boundaries of Theodore’s computer and life.
Amy Adams also deserves special mention as Amy, Twombly’s best friend. Amy is a bright, attractive woman, but her significant other puts her down in subtle ways. Amy also has potential as a filmmaker, but she lacks confidence in her own abilities.
Complex with a beautiful heart, “Her” is a different kind of love story, one that will make audiences reexamine the way they treat and communicate with other people.
“Her,” rated R for language, sexual content, and brief graphic nudity, opens in theaters on Friday, January 10.