Her was the only film at the Oscars that seemed as impressionable and impressive as 12 Years A Slave but obviously for very different reasons. Written and directed by Spike Jonze, who’s work is always so beautifully shot, known for Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Where the Wild Things Are however, Jonze was only credited as director on Where the Wild Things Are and Her. Although Where the Wild Things Are and Her are similar in direction, both films Jonze appears to have mastered a relationship between camera and sunlight, which romanticises emotion in both films as well as give them a warm feel. In terms of writing though, Her comes across as so natural and meaningful, so real and emotive that anyone could walk out afterwards and appreciate it. Where as with Where the Wild Things Are, although Jonze took a very different approach to the children’s book by having each beast personify an emotion, it came across as dry at times and just a bit harder to wade through. It’s obvious with the naturalness and flow of Her that Jonze has really tapped into something great and we can only hope it is something that sticks rather than a one off. If it is a one off (which is doubtful) it’s one of the great one offs 100% deserving of its rightful Oscar.
In a not so distant future Theodore (Joaquin Pheonix) is working his way through the divorce of love of his life Catherine (Rooney Mara). Ted works as a middleman at handwrittenletters.com where he writes deeply personal, beautifully heartfelt and elegantly worded letters from his client to their wished recipient. Ted’s apparent and only friend Amy (Amy Adams) is in an obviously ‘seemingly happy’ relationship. Ted treats himself to the OS1 update where is introduced to Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). As Ted and Samantha’s relationship is being established, it becomes clear that in the real world Ted is surrounded by fake interaction and any real interaction he has/had fails so when Ted and Samantha start to fall in-love the boundary that ‘shouldn’t crossed’ seems insignificant in light of Ted’s happiness. Obvious problems arise when Ted meets up with ex-wife Catherine who questions this relationship, which Ted overcomes. However, the main problem is the technical issue that arises when Samantha’s evolution becomes indefinite, constantly growing and evolving beyond a human’s understanding.
It sounds like this is quite a heavy piece and it’s not. It is loaded but it is also incredibly charming and witty. Jonze presents questions towards our ever-growing relationship with technology in such a simple way that you really can take it or leave it with this one. On the one hand it’s a philosophical piece questioning the morality of technology, on the other, much like Blue is the Warmest Colour, it’s a film about the complete start to the complete end of a relationship that just so happens to be between a man and software. There are two monologues, if you will, that you can’t miss (not that it’s possible to) both of which occur towards the end. The first is Samantha’s speech to Ted (this alone deserved the Oscar) and the second is Ted’s letter to Catherine both of which are two genius pieces of writing.
As well as the script Jonze’s direction is really magnificent. Not only does Jonze have this relationship with nature & natural light but also his ability to communicate that in a film, set in the future, about technology is really something else. Let alone how he uses shots themselves to communicate to his audience; Joaquin in the centre of a long shot in a crowd to emphasise his isolation (good or bad) or the close-ups of Joaquin as we look through the eyes of Samantha to replicate intimacy. It really is something else. As well as all of Jonze’s genius there really has to be credit given to K.K. Abrams who was the Oscar nominated production designer. Even though this was set in the future, thanks to the production design it was not your typical drastic future. The things that made it futuristic were subtle; subtle technologies and subtle fashion. Voice-interactive software, wireless headphones, a website that writes letters, a lift with projected images, body-controlled video games- all technologies we have now that just haven’t progressed to that stage yet. As for the fashion it’s hipster meets your dad…subtle yet worryingly not unbelievable.
If you haven’t seen it already, do yourself a favour and watch it. Granted this is not a lad’s film but it does have frequent laughable moments for any accompanying date to enjoy. Next to 12 Years, this is my favourite film of this year and due to their complete differences I’d say that Her is actual tied with 12 Years. Which has suddenly made me very grateful for the past two years of films we’ve had. Last year there was Django and Gatsby from 2/3 of my favourite all time directors and this year we’ve had masterpieces such as Her, 12 Years and Blue is the Warmest Colour. Let’s hope this is a correlation of film quality over time rather than a lucky streak!