Film Review: Her

Recently I finished reading On Writing by Stephen King, and in it the best selling author talks about how he comes up with the ideas behind his novels. Essentially, he starts with a single question: What if…? and then looks to answer it, allowing the story to evolve naturally as it goes. And you can feel that writer and director, Spike Jonze has applied the same principle to Her, taking a single point of reference, one question, and then allowing the film to develop out from there.

However, for me the question isn’t as simple or as obvious as it first seems. I don’t think this is a film simply asking: What if you fell in love with a computer? but rather, I think this entire movie is searching to answer a fundamental question of humanity: What does it mean to love?.

Joaquin Phoenix - Her

The problem for me though is that a question as open ended as that allows for too many opinions, angles and views to be aired. Everybody can have their say and everyone can add just a little bit more to the argument and this comes over in the film. The longer it went on, the more ideas and but to me… type twists the story invokes. Just when you thought you’d got a handle on where the story was going another layer would come along to muddy the waters and add another debate for you to ponder.

And this multi layering was OK for a while, but the longer the film went on bringing more and more ideas to the table, I found it becoming less and less engaging. I think the problem is that while the questions and ideas it raises are interesting, as said, there are just too many and so you can never really sink your teeth into them, to really stop, think and examine. It outlines it point, makes its arguments and then when you want the right to respond it clicks onto the next slide and starts all over again. And by the time it’d repeated this pattern for the umpteenth time, I was losing all patience with it.

Destroying the connection between itself and me like that meant that I found the film, while not slow, ponderous. It feels it’s length and certainly towards the end it starts to drag and as it finally arrives at it’s natural and linear conclusion rather than feeling any emotional loss or bereavement that the film was finishing. This isn’t like What Maisie Knew where I didn’t want the film to finish. I was actually glad it was over.

Joaquin Phoenix & Amy Adams - Her

I’d had enough by the end and that is such a shame.

Because, underneath everything this film has a heart of gold that will draw you in and tickle your heart. Joaquin Phoenix creates a leading character you instantly empathise and connect to, and whether you like it or not, you’ll find some part of his personality will instantly connect to on a private, personal level. The relationship he forms with Scarlett Johansson, at times is touchingly warm and engaging and honestly, will move you. It has some uncomfortable moments, it has moments of sheer joyous pleasure, but for a relationship born purely from language, the level of emotional response it bore in me is impressive. It actually hurt to see them fight.

And while Phoenix and Johansson draw you in, it’s Amy Adams that really shines out of this film for me. Sadly under used, her character provides the perfect supporting balance, oozing humility and vulnerability and rational in just the right amounts. She is the most real thing about this film. And whilst, it’s such a small but powerful role; truly defining just how good Amy Adams is; she never overpowers the film but instead constantly leaves you knowing it would be lacking without her.

Joaquin Phoenix (Walking On Beach) - Her

However, while there are huge amounts to like about Her and lots to get frustrated about, my biggest criticism is the world they live in. The environment where this story takes place. It just seemed false and fake. Firstly, it appears they have taken the 1970s dropped it into a Pantone colour catalogue, and presented the result as a vision of the future. A future that is deaf of background sound, which is bizarre as everything is done through speech. Voice recognition replacing all forms of input and yet silence. And this eerie muteness is then echoed through the fact that our leading character appears to be the only one with this futuristic technology. He walks about, apparently interfacing with his computer, but appearing to simply talk to himself, with nobody else partaking in similar activities or even batting an eye lid. I’m not saying they’re don’t, but for large parts it does appear technologically isolating and aside from being visually distracting, I found it largely off putting.

I’d been intrigued by Her ever since I missed it in the cinema last year. And watching it ponder, present and proclaim it’s ideas on the meaning of love, life and relationships I found some of what it had to say interesting and thought provoking. I just wish though, it’d allowed me a chance to speak rather than orating every thought that came into it’s head until ultimately, it went round in circles and destroyed it’s own argument.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.