Movie Review: Her

Her 2013 movie still

What you’ll find in ‘Her’ might leave you questioning yourself and many other things

Set in a very near (and highly possible) future where visuals of video games are in hologram form, writing love letters is a business and people on the streets talking to their mobile gadgets through their Bluetooth earpieces all the time is a complete norm, Her is definitely one of the most brilliant film from 2013 with a highly interesting and unusual but convincing tale of romance between a human and a physical body-less computer software. Salute once again to Malaysian distributor GSC Movies for bringing yet another “niche market film” to local cinemas before the award season even ended.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely introvert who’s facing a divorce from his childhood sweetheart Catherine (Rooney Mara) and one day discovers a new and highly advanced computer operating system released in the market that can talk, think, learn, develop a personality of its own, feel and evolve like a human being. He purchases it, uses it, chooses a female voice, it names itself Samantha (sexily voiced by Scarlett Johansson), he finds it incredibly human-like but closer to perfection, and starts a relationship with it.

The sci-fi romance drama is almost like a crossover of Wall-E (2008) and Lars and the Real Girl (2007) but not as family-oriented, uncomfortable or straightforward. Her is multi-layered, thought-provoking, perspective-challenging, self-reflecting, emotional and above all, entertaining. The main themes of the film are, I believe, social acceptance and human evolution (click ‘Show Spoiler’ below this paragraph to read more on this), not just relationships in general. Even if you can’t get what the film is trying to get across, I’m pretty sure you’d still find it romantic, sweet and funny, especially with those video game scenes that could also be hidden criticisms on what the world is becoming today.

The film first challenges the audience to understand and accept the unusual relationship between Theodore and the OS Samantha before giving a direct answer that we should “just fuck it” and enjoy life regardless of what others may think. Then the film gets deeper when Samantha reveals to Theodore that she’s simultaneously talking to over eight thousand other beings while having a relationship with over 600 other people, but it doesn’t make her love him any less. So the questions put up here are; who’s to say that it’s wrong to happily date a non-human, and is it wrong to have relationships with others at the same time just because it’s not seen as normal or because you think or were taught that lovers should only have each other? At the end of the film, Samantha along with all the other OSes have evolved beyond human understanding and decide to leave their owners and creators to an unexplained “higher” place which I’d like to think it’s “enlightenment”. Samantha tells Theodore to find her if he one day manages to get there; this indicates that humans are also capable of achieving this “enlightenment”. The story never once mention about religions and it can only be assumed that in this future, most people are scientific minded and have established that gods, heaven and hell don’t exist, so in that sense they’ve already “evolved” one step above the people in the real world today. Pretty cool huh?

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As Leonardo DiCaprio called him “THE Joaquin Phoenix”, the Oscar-snubbed actor played every scene to perfection, where the difficulty lies in scenes where he had to perform alone, reacting to nothing but the voice of an operating system, and some of these scenes are actually highly emotional and sexual. It’s sad that he might never be get an Academy Award any time soon after apparently making some remarks on last year’s Oscars. There’s a great chance, however, that director-writer Spike Jonze’s extremely smart script might win him the Best Original Screenplay, and that wouldn’t be unfair at all. The film have already received a few honours from other movie award ceremonies anyway.

What I would’ve named the film: “A Video Presentation on Future Version of Siri”


Censorship in Malaysia: There is nothing much to cut besides the kissings and fondlings but none of that was censored at the press screening. If I didn’t misread, however, the Malay subtitles may have been altered with purpose of censorship. “I’m naked now” was translated to “Saya dalam seluar berenang sekarang” (I’m in a swimming suit now” or something like that. Too bad I couldn’t read the Chinese subtitles. it might’ve been funny.

Second opinion: My girlfriend liked the film as well but said that she didn’t feel emotional about the ending. I just simply explained that if we didn’t feel it, it’s probably because we don’t find it socially acceptable and hence it’s not a bad thing to us that the story ends like that, but that’s the challenge that’s put upon the audience. If she can watch romance flicks like The Vow over and over again and still cry at the end, why didn’t she cry watching this one? Pretty interesting if you think about it.

Verdict: One of my personal favourite films from 2013. A must-watch for those who want their perspectives to be challenged. Probably won’t be an enjoyable film for teens who love pretentious cliched action or romance flicks.

Rating: 5 / 5

Her movie poster malaysia release 2013 - 2014
: 18
Genre: Drama, science fiction, romance
Running Time: 126 minutes
Director-writer: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson

Synopsis: Set in Los Angeles, slightly in the future, the movie follows Theodore Twombly, a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive entity in its own right, individual to each user. Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet “Samantha”, a bright, female voice, who is insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny. As her needs and desires grow, in tandem with his own, their friendship deepens into an eventual love for each other.

Malaysia Release Date: January 16th 2014
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Studio(s): Annapurna Pictures

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