Her is one of the most unique films in years. The story is simple enough, a man who is going through a divorce buys a new operating system that is completely intuitive and cognizant and falls in love with the it. On the surface Her seems like one of the strangest and most outlandish ideas for a movie and yet it proves to be one of the most human. This is an exploration of what it means to be, to be human and in relationship with others. Her is a great movie, that does have some scenes I cannot endorse, so use caution when going to see it.
Theodore buys an operating system, never thinking that it will turn his life upside down. He is a man who is on the brink of divorce. He hides himself emotionally, longing for connection, to be know and loved and yet fears the rejection that comes with the risk inherent in all relationships. When Samantha (the name of the OS, which she gives to herself) downloads it’s way into Theodore’s life he finds a friend. Samantha is there to listen and comfort him by making him feel known as well as cared for. Since Samantha is a fully intuitive system, she can learn, grow, change and feel just like any human, creating a connection between them that is “real”.
The relationship quickly progresses from one of friendship to romance. Samantha experiences feelings of desire and wanting for the first time, every moment becoming more “alive”. Unlike a human, she is not limited to a physical form, so as she grows she begins to transcend her need for the human connection she has with Theodore, he is just too slow to be on her level.
Her has a lot to say about humanity and relationships. Humans are made for connection, it is the one thing that we cannot live without. In almost every romantic relationship we enter into it believing that the person we have come to know can fill us and “complete” us. We set them up as idols and put the weight of our souls, our happiness on their shoulders. Inevitably they crumble, disappointing us because no one has the strength to truly complete another. The satiation of our deepest desires goes unfulfilled, leaving us to look for “greener pastures”. This is beautifully played out in couples scenes throughout the movie. The most poignant is when Theodore writes a letter to his ex-wife confessing that he had asked too much of her, basically he had made her god and it was not her fault that she could not live up to such a standard.
Theodore is life is rife with fear. He fears being alone. He also fears being rejected. He fears allowing someone to truly know him because there is the chance that they might cast him aside, not liking what they know. Humans have an intense hunger to be known and loved unconditionally, but experience has taught us time and again that it’s almost impossible to find. C.S. Lewis said,
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
We are made for relationship but in a fallen world, no human will ever be able to fill the needs we have fully. Only God can supply for all our needs. When we place a human being as ultimate in our lives, allocating all of our hope for joy in them we will be forever unsatisfied. Only when God is ultimate and supreme in our lives can we experience the pleasure in human relationships the way they were made to be.
Movies like Her are few and far between. I found myself, the whole time, being challenged with the ideas of relationships, what it means to be human and to love another. Joaquin Phoenix gives a heartfelt performance that you immediately empathize with, drawing you into his melancholy and joy in every scene. It must be said that the relationship between Theodore and Samantha only works because of the fantastic voice acting of Scarlett Johansson. The entire time you buy that someone could fall in love with an OS if it had a voice like hers. This will not be a movie for everyone, but I must say, I will be thinking about it for a long time.