Movie Review: Her

written by David Steffen

Back in April I reviewed the Ray Bradbury Award nominees for the years as their deadline for nomination approached–I reviewed all the ones I could get my hands on, but there was one movie that wasn’t yet released on DVD–titled “Her” written and directed by Spike Jonze.

The movie takes place in 2025 in a world that’s very recognizable, but with some differences–holograms being commonplace and artificial intelligence has advanced to stages we haven’t reached yet. The protagonist is Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who writes heartfelt letters on behalf of complete strangers for hire. He has just upgraded his personal operating system–which is more than just an OS in the way that we use the phrase and more of a personal assistant. He chooses for the OS to have a female voice (voiced by Scarlett Johanssen) and she names herself Samantha. He hits it off with Samantha and soon their relationship becomes more than just user-computer. Theodore is lonely, having little personal contact with anyone and clinging to the threads of an estranged marriage which he has been stalling on signing the divorce papers to end. He does have one friend Amy (Amy Adams) who is also struggling with her relationship.

As Samantha gains experience with the world she grows from a basic and functional assistant into a real person with real desires. The physical angle is a complication, of course, since she has no body, but they try things to work that out. Pretty soon, she starts changing as she develops faster and faster.

I quite enjoyed this movie, in large part because I found the relationship very plausible, and the movie even managed to make it seem not creepy (even though it is rather creepy). What I really liked about the movie is that I thought it was one of the better AI treatments I’ve seen in a movie–it was quite sympathetic to her and her situation–what it would be like to process the world at a much faster rate than the humans you’re dealing with, to try to be a facsimile of a person when you’re really not, and so on. I highly recommend it.