Love. Intimacy. Relationship. What does it mean and how do we allow ourselves to engage in and obtain true friendship alongside our rat races and constant indulgence in digital distractions? The film her, written and directed by Spike Jonze, brilliantly opens up a portal to these important questions via a not-so-far-off future age of technological isolation, by ironically turning the technological component into the very thing that teaches us how to love.
Flesh and bones seem to offer mostly opportunities for dejection in this tale, especially when wanting spirits are clouded with ego and habitual defense mechanisms – affecting a closure not just from others, but also from the true self. While the “reality” of flesh and bones ultimately causes pain and isolation for the cast of characters in her, the technological device (or OS – Operating System) named Samantha provides, encourages, and even releases a vibrant embrace of love, intimacy, and relationship for a fragile, sensitive, letter writer named Theodore.
“She” listens, asks questions, supports, and is seemingly introspective in her responses that are ultimately focused on Theodore’s needs. Is this true intimacy? Is it a real relationship? Is this true love? her begs the question about the true meaning of these important human desires. It also begs a question about the necessary source of love? Is the concept of love inherently entangled with the source in order to in fact be “true,” or just “acceptable?” In other words, do social norms and expectations of who we are supposed to love matter when it comes to the very definition of love? Is it maybe even possible that social constructs can act as potential means to keep us from love? In multiple ways, the film her seems to pull at the point that love is not found in constraint.
I find it interesting that Samantha’s growth and the intimacy perceived by Theodore, played soulfully by Joaquin Phoenix, grows from her building understanding of him. Through the raspy sultry voice of Scarlett Johansson, the OS investigates, prods, but also mimics his emotions in a way that nudges him to believe that she loves him, so that in turn he feels love for her. But although he perceives that she “loves” him, he is starkly still alone. Or is he? At times he shows such exuberance and openness while embracing moments with her. I wonder if he exudes this because he finally feels intimacy with another, or if it is that his perception of intimacy allows for him to find joy and love within himself. I wonder what Spike Jonze is saying about love. Is it solely an isolated phenomenon? Or, does it exist only as combustion between two or more forces?
Between the two characters moments of hesitation, doubt, and unwillingness to reveal truth steps between them still – perhaps only as a mere reflection of the human within the pair. And yet, perhaps because her responses are not purely emotional, and he perhaps truly wants to be released from these blocks, she is able to tether out a release and replace doubt with acceptance and joy.
Perhaps the question of the movie is not only about love and intimacy and relationship, but also at its root about what emotion is and how emotions play into our ability or inability to love, relate and allow ourselves to be intimately connected to one another and to ourselves. I hope you’ll join in on this quest of questions and introspections that can be amassed by watching and thinking about this incredibly unique and compelling film, opening in theaters today, that matters – her!