Man in Love with Operating System, Beautiful?

My phone vibrated while I watched Her and I felt uncomfortable. Caught up in Spike Jonze’s futuristic society of potty mouth video game characters and high wasted pants, I had forgotten about my mere mortal phone that doesn’t care about my secrets, dreams and ambitions. And while my iPhone doesn’t flip open and fold over like Theodore’s, both of our devices are used as physical means to communicate and hold relationships with other people.

Spike Jonze isn’t asking America to toss their smart phones. Her doesn’t want you to question your relationship with your phone, but rather, it forces you to think about how we operate in relationships. This is a love story, one that carefully examines a relationship as it blooms and questions falling in love, who we do it with and the means we do it.

Theodore (Joaquin Pheonix) is a man of the future, in the literal sense. He uses technology to fend off his loneliness and ignores the damages of his divorce. He’d rather spend his nights arguing with a small alien boy in a video game than go home with a girl his friend set up with. In the beginning of the film, Theodore is a broken and lonely man, writing passionate love letters for other’s relationships. Theodore finds (or rather downloads) an operating system who names herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) as his loneliness peaks. Samantha comes into Theodore’s life full of curiosity and wonder and seemingly pulls him out of his slump.

The plot seems laughable, like an article you’d read on The Onion, ‘Man in Love with Smartphone.’ You want to elbow the person next to you and say, “What a weido right?” But you don’t, because Jonze’s dialogue is slowly melting your cold, cynical heart. It’s as real as your pal’s college sweetheart.

Theodore doesn’t have some sick psychological obsession with technology.  And Samantha isn’t a mere compilation of set questions and responses. She’s complex. Their relationship is complex. He closes his eyes and let’s her guide him through a crowded amusement park. She reads his letters and discovers what love is. Samantha asks him about his ex and helps him close that door. He brings her to family functions and on double dates with his co-worker and she introduces him to an artificially recreated version of Alan Watts.

They have a real, tangible, passionate relationship. Theodore can’t even follow through with having sex with the surrogate Samantha finds to break their physical gap (Samantha, after all doesn’t have a body) because the surrogate will never understand the special bond between them. When Samantha brings in the surrogate, Theodore can’t follow through with the act because it’s not his Sam. The surrogate will never fully be able to understand the special bond between them. She interferes with their love. She distances them. She’s an imaginary solution to fill the hole in Samantha and Theodore’s relationship.

Theodore doesn’t love a cell phone. He loves Samantha. The phone, computer and earpiece act simply as bridges that connect them and allow their relationship to exist. And isn’t that what we already do with our phones? If your significant other is traveling or just at work, you call or text them to stay with them, to be continually present in their lives.

My phone vibrated from a text from my mom checking what time I’d be back home from the movie. My phone didn’t ask me how that made me feel or if I wanted to respond, and I didn’t want it to. I told Ryan, who sat next to me at the theater, about the text (after the film was over, of course). And if the message had been Lucas telling me about an embarrassing thing Matt did, I would have texted Matt to make fun of him. I don’t have a relationship with my phone. I have one with the people I use the phone to communicate and connect with, and sometimes, just like the surrogate did, it gets in the way. We abuse how simple it has become to connect with our loved ones. We check our texts, emails and tweets while we have dinner with friends. What helps us stay together also creates a barrier.

After Theodore begins sprinting home in a panic because he can’t reach Samantha, he trips, falls, and finds himself watching an overwhelming stream of people absorbed into their phones walking up from the subway. They, as happened to Theodore, are being cheered up, pulled up and brought out of their sadness, loneliness, depression ect. and into a bright and happy world by their relationships with their OS. But as he sits on the steps watching the men and women stuck to their phones, he begins to realize the sacrifices he made, the things he didn’t look at on his way to work, the people he didn’t talk to, just to be continually connected to the person he loved.

Her doesn’t want you to hate your phone (or to fall in love with it). It wants you to think about how we love the people in our lives and the resulting sacrifices we make for them.

40 thoughts on “Man in Love with Operating System, Beautiful?

  1. Out of all the reviews I’ve seen & read on Her..Yours is the best! I’ve not yet seen the movie, but looking forward to checking it out..2 thumbs UP on your write & thanks for sharing it

  2. This is a fair review. But I’m not sure the technology is the main point. The technology of AI just affords Jonze a vehicle for a deeper understanding of what it means to be in relationship. You get there in the end it seems. but I think it’s more allegorical than you give it credit for.

  3. So glad to see Joaquin Phoenix back.
    I haven’t seen it yet, but you review is so beautiful. It made me think of all those people out there forming intimate relationships on dating sights. Kinda might as well be the same in a way.

  4. I thought this movie was fantastic. It actually got me thinking very hard about the relationships in my life. Most people I know laugh at the concept, but I think they should give it a chance.

  5. It sounds like a sad nerdy tale.. Yet look at him grinning up there! I have heard about people being “In LOVE with inanimate objects.. saw a show on TV, didn’t understand hoe someone could have a physical relationship with a skyscraper or a Boss 302.. Ugh!

  6. But since I’m open minded and curious I won’t let it stop me from watching the movie, I love anything odd, unusual, or even

  7. Great review and well written. I haven’t seen the movie yet but definitely plan to after seeing so many reviews!

  8. I definitely want to see this movie! Also if you guys are interested you could check out this blog: . It’s my second blog I’m doing with my sister and would really apprecate feedback! Thanks guys!

  9. This is one of the most unusal movies I have ever seen. It was not bad but it was not good. There aren’t really any words that can properly describe my feelings about it. All I can think of is it was bizzare, odd, and wierd.

  10. Yeah after I saw that movie, it really stayed with me. A few days later I was still thinking about it. it says something definitely about relationships and the emptiness you can feel after it breaks up. Especially those flashbacks where everything is all sunlight and happiness are painful. Captures it so well.

  11. wow! great review… you’ve made me want to see the movie now. I’m finding this topic more and more interesting and slightly frightening at the same time. Better tech can be a good thing, but arrgggh, the cost seems, for many, to be the slow disintegration of real physical, face-to-face, emotional response. thanks for this!

  12. Reblogged this on Resting grounds and commented:
    This is why I love this movie so much. A lot of people find it weird to fall in love with a computer system but the movie really shows the different complexities to a relationship and how human nature yearns for connection, no matter what form it comes in.

  13. Ah yes, I think this film, more than anything, leaves you thinking about our own human experience…..
    ….still thinking, 3 days later…

  14. Before watched this movie, my friend give me a link to the website that told about the similarity this film to Lost In Translation. I must said that this both tell two different perspective of a way in a marriage crisis. But sure, Her is very well movie. I love the script and conversations on the movie. Not to be missed, Scarlett Johansson!!

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