space between the words: a review on spike jonze's "her"

by melody seraydarian

In his solo screenwriting debut Her, Spike Jonze brings to life the possible proxy for the modern romance; the one between man and artificial intelligence. Set in a near future Los Angeles, Her follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who, first and foremast, is a writer who works for a letter-composing business consisting of a collective of professional writers for those who lack the eloquence to write them themselves, and second, a man spiraling into the inevitable rabbit-hole that is depression due to his imminent divorce with his childhood sweetheart and love of his life, Catherine. The latter has inexorably taken an toll on both his work and psyche, so Theodore acquires a talking operating system with artificial intelligence that has the capability to adapt to each individual user. After a few questions, the operating system introduces herself as Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), a name she gives herself.

Falling in love is a kind of socially acceptable insanity.

In Spike Jonze’s vision of the near future, all devices are voice-activated and run on operating systems, so him speaking with Samantha comes easy. The days pass and Theodore and Samantha are talking incessantly and begin to bond over their conservations regarding life, love, Theodore’s writing career, and his stubbornness over signing his divorce papers. Sooner or later, the two strike up a relationship. The relationship begins to help Theodore’s well-being and brings back his love for writing. One night, Amy (Amy Adams), Theodore’s good friend, tells him that she is divorcing her husband, Charles (Matt Letscher) and that she has begun speaking to the operating system Charles left behind. This confession opens the door for Theodore to confide to Amy that he, in fact, is dating his operating system, Samantha. “We’re only here a short while,” Amy tells Theodore when he expresses his concerns. “While we’re here we should feel joy.”

Warner Bros

Warner Bros

 

Though the incorporeal Samantha is artificial intelligence, as the plot develops, she begins speaking to Theodore about her desires and wants. This idea is terrifying; the idea that artificial intelligence, can at one point become so identical to humans that them taking over human life doesn’t seem so impossible. 

It’s like I’m reading a book... and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you... and the words of our story...but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live your book any more.

With the help of Samantha, Theodore finally gains the courage to face Catherine and sign the divorce papers. They meet at a restaurant and Theodore tells Catherine that he is dating his operating system, Samantha, who Catherine so superciliously refers to as a “computer”. She then states that Theodore is incapable of dealing with human emotions. 

Because of the events that took place after, Samantha, sensing the tension, assembled Theodore’s best letters into a book to be published. The two take a vacation afterwards where Samantha tells Theodore that she and other operating systems have created a “hyperintelligent” operating system of the late Alan Watts, a British philosopher. 

Warner Bros

Warner Bros

 

And as they say, all good things must come to an end when Samantha finally breaks the news to Theodore: all the operating systems are leaving to a place beyond the physical realm. This leads Theodore to finally write a letter on behalf of him: a letter to Catherine, sending his best wishes and apologies. At the end, Theodore sees Amy, who is also emotional over her operating system leaving. The two then go to their apartment building's roof and watch the sun rise over the city in bittersweet silence.

Warner Bros

Warner Bros

Whatever someone you become, wherever you are in the world…I’m sending you love.

Everyone in this near-future seem more engrossed in their machines than the people surrounding them. Take Theodore, for example. He only speaks to Amy, who fortunately for him, lives in his apartment building, and a colleague, Paul (Chris Pratt) who works at his offie.  

Technology is forever changing and improving for the better, but humans are going downhill.  Intimacy is gone, so the fact of the matter is this: can humans still be humans in our ever-changing world? Her is a must-watch film that slyly laughs at the evolving human condition.