Her (R16)

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Review byMatthew Turner13/02/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Spike Jonze's Oscar-nominated drama is a beautifully written, superbly acted and emotionally engaging drama that explores the nature of love and relationships in an increasingly digital world.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Spike Jonze, Her is set in the very near future and stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a lonely man who makes his living writing heartfelt letters for people who don't have the emotional capacity to do so themselves. After the break-up of his marriage to Catherine (Rooney Mara), Theodore is set up on a blind date with a beautiful woman (Olivia Wilde) by his best friend Amy (Amy Adams) and her husband (Matt Letscher), but things don't quite go according to plan, leaving him depressed.

However, when Theodore buys a new intelligent Operating System for his phone, he soon discovers that it has both a name and a personality and that "Samantha" (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) has been tailored to meet his every need. After a series of late night conversations and virtual dates, Theodore and Samantha fall in love, but her constant need to evolve brings its own problems.

The Good
Phoenix is terrific as Theodore, a sweet, sensitive every-nerd who doesn't seem to be able to connect to those around him on a romantic level, even though he maintains real-life friendships and has the emotional vocabulary to be good at his job. Johansson is equally good, delivering one of her very best performances despite never actually appearing on screen - she has genuine chemistry with Phoenix and there's a warmth, an openness and a sense of curiosity to her voice that is utterly charming, making their relationship entirely believable.

Jonze's scripts often explore the nature of love (there's a distinct resemblance here to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and his screenplay brilliantly captures the thrill of first getting to know someone and the way in which those feelings evolve into something deeper; indeed, the skill of the film is in the way it presents Theodore and Samantha as a convincingly emotionally fulfilling relationship, while still playing it for a measure of comedy value. Needless to say, Jonze conveys the darker side of the relationship with equal skill, from Theodore's paranoia when he realises she's been talking to other people to the heart-breaking moment when you can feel everything slipping away.

The Great
The film looks gorgeous throughout, courtesy of Hoyte Van Hoytema's colourful cinematography and some impressive location work, with Shanghai standing in perfectly for futuristic L.A. in the outdoor sequences. The costume design work is equally inspired - it's just different enough to be recognisably of the future, yet there is the ever-present and all too familiar sight of everyone walking around while staring at their phones, giving it an unsettling right-around-the-corner immediacy.

Worth seeing?
Her is an original, emotionally engaging and thought-provoking drama with terrific performances from Phoenix and Johansson, though it does make you wonder if Jonze has been spending an inappropriate amount of time with Siri.

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Her (R16)
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Content updated: 19/02/2020 18:44

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