Phoenix In Her

It's common nowadays to see people literally connected to their phones, and for most, it's the one thing thing they could not live without.

Her, now in cinemas, takes the relationship even further with its main character, Theodore Twombly (played by an excellent and almost unrecognizable Joaquin Phoenix), who actually falls in love with his phone's Operating System.

Well, he's not actually in love with his phone, but in love with the women's voice who is the Operating System.

Twombly, recently divorced, fortyish, and obviously very lonely, is an expert letter writer (number 612 in his company); people hire him to write personal handwritten letters to their loved ones. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles, Twombly's life revolves around work and his fascination with technology, which has him purchasing the latest gadgets with the most up-to-date systems. This includes his purchase of a new Operating System that is connected to both his computer and to his phone. However, this Operating System is not just a monotone voice with no personality (similar to Siri on the iPhone), it is a voice that appears to be specially made for him, a voice that he chose to be a woman. It is a very sexy female voice, whose name happens to be Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson).

In a world of futuristic looking buildings and lack of personal interaction, Her takes our relationship with technology (and specifically phones) to a whole different level (scary but perhaps realistic). Twombly is longing, perhaps hopelessly, to connect with that voice, and hopefully with the person behind that voice. He is slowly falling in love with the voice, a voice deep down he knows is just a voice. He tells Samantha his innermost thoughts, and starts telling people that he is in a relationship with Samantha. He even tells Samantha, "You helped me discover the ability to want." But Samantha is just the voice of a portable gadget and his computer.

Her messes with the idea (perhaps correctly) that we are getting too dependent on our devices, that we are now living our lives talking, texting, socializing, and falling in love digitally. Twombly is not the only one who is in love with a voice; his upstairs neighbor Amy (Amy Adams) is also getting caught up in a relationship with the Operating System left behind by her estranged husband. And it seems that Twombly and Amy would make a perfect couple, but they both are so hooked on their devices they seem devoid of actually connecting to anyone real. Is this how our society will be in 20 years time?

Her is the first film director Spike Jonze has written on his own. He wrote it three years ago over a long New York winter, and some of Her was shot in Shanghai, which has shiny new skyscrapers and raised walkways, perfect for Her to show how people can be in such a crowded city yet strangely disconnected to each other. And as an added backdrop to the making of Her, Samantha Morton originally recorded the voice of Samantha, but in post production Jonze felt that Morton's voice didn't resonate the way he wanted it to. So he went with Johannson, who has one of the sexiest female voices in Hollywood.

Phoenix, who offscreen has a very strange and somewhat interesting reputation, originally felt he was wrong for the part of Twombly, but his physical appearance in the film — glasses and mustache — make him look unrecognizable. Phoenix takes his acting to a different level in this film, as most of the time it is just him (and 'Her') talking to each other, making us feel like we are watching a romance blossoming. Phoenix was very good in his last film (The Master), but in Her he is excellent.

Was Jonze trying to send a message with this film that technology is taking over our lives? Are we getting too dependent on technology, and specifically our mobile phones? Have a look around on your way home tonight. You'll notice that most (if not all) of the people around you are on their phones, either listening to music, checking messages, playing a game, or just simply holding it in their hands.

It takes a movie like Her to remind us that even phones can let us down, and that there is nothing quite like human interaction. Try it some time. You'll like it.