“Her” explores the possibilities and reality of love with OS

By Sam Beezjak, E23

Spike Jonze’s latest film “Her” turned a lot of heads with a plot line that explored what can happen when a person actually develops a personal relationship with an artificial intelligence. While such a thought is definitely difficult to conceptualize, Jonze manages to use this idea to create an incredibly heart-wrenching, deeply human film.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) writes love letters for couples that are unable to articulate their feelings in an undisclosed point in time, probably around 10 or 15 years in the future. He boots up a new OS named Samantha (Scarlett Johanson). He becomes very good friends with Samantha, despite his own incredulity at being able to forge a human connection with a computer.

After a failed blind date, Twombly returns to Samantha and vents about how badly the evening went. They become emotionally intimate and begin to idealize what it would be like if they were a dating couple, resulting in arguably one of the strangest sex scenes ever put to film. The strangeness comes less from the fact that Twombly is having sex with a computer, but more from how relatable the scene is. In a society that complains how real life interaction is increasingly replaced by computers, such a scene is as revolting as it is romantic.

What gives this movie its magic is its ability to make the viewer picture themselves building a relationship with an intelligent computer while simultaneously questioning the possibility. Twombly and Samantha represent both an ideal relationship and technology being a surrogate for real human interaction, pointed out by Twombly’s ex-wife as he explains his and Samantha’s relationship to her. It’s at this point where the viewer is pulled out of the idealistic haze of Samantha’s seeming perfection and pulled back to reality.

The last third of “Her” is arguably one of the most emotionally devastating half-hours in cinema right along with the infamous “It’s not your fault” scene from “Good Will Hunting,” and pretty much the entirety of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” The movie changes in perspective from starry-eyed theorizing to the harsh reality of human-computer incompatibility. The scene where Samantha and Twombly finally break it off is almost unbearable, but it manages to convey a deeply human sense of longing, and therein lies the appeal of the movie. Despite the focal point of the movie being a computer, “Her” covers an entirely organic spectrum of emotions and ultimately reminds everyone who sees it of their own humanity and its frailty.