When asked about my all-time favorite romance film, without hesitation I would respond with Michel Gondry’s unprecedented opus, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. For me, no film has blended so much artistry, intimacy, or even the life-affirming philosophical ideals as great as that one. Inventive in its meticulous craftsmanship thanks to the surreal direction of Gondry, the limitless imagination of Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay, and such genuine, realistic performances by the ensemble. It is films like “Eternal Sunshine” that made me fall in love with film in the first place – not only as a simple form of entertainment or escapism from the real world, but as an art that can enlighten the hearts and minds of audiences all thanks to the unparalleled beauty that visual storytelling can accomplish.
You may be wondering why I prefaced this review of Spike Jonze’s Her by mentioning my unflinching adoration of “Eternal Sunshine”. Well for me, Her is not only reminiscent of that film in terms of artistry, it is also the single best romance film I’ve seen since then.
Now I have a hunch that you may be wondering why I would say such high remarks. Simply put, there hasn’t been a film within the genres of romance or even sci-fi in years that delved within the essence of the human heart alongside the ideas to why we fall in love in the first place.
Set in Los Angeles during the not-too distant future, Theodore Twombly (played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix) is an introverted, yet loveable man who lives a lonely life having recently separated with his wife Catherine. His life soon turns upside-down when he purchases an artificially intelligent OS named Samantha (portrayed by an unseen Scarlett Johansson). What starts out as just simply an assistant to help organize emails and even play video games with, a relationship starts to brew.
From an outsider’s perspective, the film’s premise may come off as pretty obscure. But it is a credit to Jonze’s incredible direction and screenplay that not only analyzes the human spirit, but also serves as a social commentary on how outsiders may view other people’s relationships along with the ever-growing disconnected society that continuously spend their lives on technology. I mention the outsider’s perspective because what makes relationships so beautiful is that no matter what others may see differently, it is the intimate interaction between you and another individual that makes it so precious. And that’s what Jonze flawlessly accomplishes when we see Theodore and Samantha interact. Sure on the outside it may seem abnormal to some, but when you finally get to know both of these characters, that outsider’s perspective is thrown out the window once you realize that this relationship may possibly work despite Samantha not having a physical form.
And that’s why this film leaves you in such a whirlwind of emotions and philosophical questions to ponder over. We often rely on technology to help us with our needs – whether it is through assignments needed to be accomplished, information desired to be researched, and of course social interaction. And as we see with Theodore and Samantha’s relationship, it permeates within it all and is only amplified to 11 thanks to the sentient nature of Samantha. But really, even though Samantha may be “the perfect girlfriend” and may satisfy Theodore just as a complicated human relationship would, it is through their own experiences where the audiences come to realize that technology will continue to advance and unfortunately, humans are only capable of so much. And regardless of what may seem satisfying to Theodore in this situation, in the big scheme of things, his relationship with Samantha is strictly based on their vocal interaction. And it is through those conversations that we as an audience feel the realness of their togetherness. But unfortunately, language is limited and communication is more than letter and word combinations. And while communication is vital to a healthy relationship, there is still so much desired by the human heart that Samantha just cannot satisfy. Sure, they both attempt to reach those levels of their romance, but only to reach awkwardly unsettling results.
Her reminds us of what we are missing out on in our lives because of our fixation with technology. What should be used to explore more about what society can be capable of has been almost bombarded by satisfying ourselves whether it is through emotional or even physical desires – only to be reminded that it was all thanks to simulations that satisfy temporarily and only feel real, yet isn’t real.
When the credits started to roll, the tears wouldn’t stop flowing. I was in a state of overwhelming emotions that I haven’t felt ever since “Eternal Sunshine”. And it was all the more evident knowing that I stayed through the credits wanting to read all the names that have taken part of this awe-inspiring masterpiece that I will continue to remember for as long as I continue my passion for not only film, but life. I can go on and on about how much this film has resonated with me as a person, but seriously, just as I expressed above, language is limited. All I can do now is to implore you to go see this film. This is not only 2013’s best film, it is one of the best films of the decade and truly feels so perfect for the times we are living in right now. It’s a film that I can now put as a companion piece to my all-time favorite romance film. Thank you, Spike Jonze. Thank you.
Her earns a 5/5.