The plot of Her involves a man named Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who is still recovering from the breakup with his wife Catherine, played by Rooney Mara. They have been split up for months, but have yet to get officially divorced. The pain of even thinking about getting divorced with his former wife plagues Theodore. Most of his days are spent thinking of moments from his past relationship. This gives the film a depressing mood that haunts the majority of its running time.
When not thinking about the destruction of his marriage, Theodore is busy writing letters. His job involves writing letters in other people's names to whoever these people desire to have the letter written to. It is a strange job that fits right in with the kind of things one would expect in a Spike Jonze film. Theodore's letters are always very sweet and show that he is a very emotional man.
One day, Theodore installs a new operating system onto his computer and onto a device the size of a cell phone. This operating system is like none ever seen in the real world. The operating system has a voice that can be chosen to be male or female. The operating system can have conversations with you and will do whatever the owner tells it to do. The operating system also evolves over time. It constantly gains knowledge and grows smarter everyday. Theodore decides to make his operating system have a female voice. Very quickly, she names herself Samantha.
As Theodore begins to talk more with Samantha, he realizes how complex she really is. She is also willing to do whatever he wants though she also has desires of her own. Soon enough, things escalate between Theodore and Samantha and the machine and the man become boyfriend and girlfriend. This is not without its problems. The main problem is that Samantha does not have a body. This is something that she is constantly thinking about. She wishes that she could reach out and touch Theodore and I am sure that he wishes that too. Also a problem is the perception certain other people have on human/operating system relationships. Not everyone thinks they are a good idea.
With Her, Spike Jonze explores the joys and frustrations of relationships. Even though the main relationship featured in the film is one between a man and a machine, the insights gained are applicable to any kind of romantic relationship. There are ups and there are downs. There is the honeymoon period and the sometimes harsh truth of what comes after. Her is a film filled with laughter, love, anger, and confusion. In other words, it has everything that a romantic relationship provides.
Also like a relationship, Her has some issues. Really, the issue comes in the ending. There are a lot of questions raised in the film about relationships and love and finding answers for them is not so easy. The movie has trouble finding an ending that really satisfies because of this. The ending, as it stands, works and could be interpreted in different ways with different meanings, but it is not an ending as creative as everything that has come before.
The stand out thing in this film, and what it will likely be most remembered for, is Scarlett Johansson's performance as Samantha. Without ever physically appearing in the film, Scarlett Johansson creates one of the most memorable characters of 2013. She is as fully realized as any character in any film and with only her voice, gives just as powerful a performance as anyone seen on the screen in 2013. Also deserving credit, in a small role, is Kristen Wiig, who also is only a voice in the movie and is absolutely hilarious!
Her is a very meditative film. It weaves in and out between images as characters weave in and out between relationships. Many discussions about what makes a relationship work or not work could stem from watching this movie. Some solutions to the problems of relationships are given and some remain unsolved. Her raises the question of what love really is and how it can truly be achieved and really, isn't that a question we should all think about?