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Review: Her, love in the age of AI

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Out of all the movies in theaters now, Her was the most intriguing to me. Not just because Spike Jonze directed it, but because it seems to be a story that is uniquely of the moment and timeless. Love is the subject, but underneath that, is the explanation of what love really is to us, and how it's loss affects our very being.

Theodore Twombley (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is a writer of other people's letters. A cyberspace Cyrano going through a painful divorce that leaves him searching for ways to connect that don't threaten his autonomy and isolation. Seemingly mild-mannered, Theodore goes about his life, lacking nothing in the material sense, but devoid of any real passionate connection.

Life takes on a more pleasant tone when he purchases a new operating system. What should have been just a mundane act changes Theodore's whole life as he meets Samantha, the name the OS has chosen for itself. The fun, flirty voice of Scarlett Johansson brings the disembodied character to life, and the confidently forthright way in which the OS reports that she found and chose the name sets the tone immediately. The operating system is alive, sentient, and capable of making it's own decisions.

Theodore and Samantha grow closer, and as the film goes on we find that the operating system has crept into every crevice of everyone's life in this fictional city. Everyone is communicating with some unseen being that's filling in all the empty spaces, engaging all of their senses, and leading them into deeper and deeper involvements. It's not creepy or scary...exactly, but it does point out that human beings need connection, love, and intimacy to be happy. Belief in the disembodied and intangible doesn't phase anyone, the only important fact for all involved is that they've found love, friendship, and understanding.

The look in of the film is safe and comfortable, with no jarring edges. The characters, while somewhat dissatisfied in some ways, aren't really very deeply involved in real life. They float along creating virtual worlds, working in offices that are decorated in nursery colors. The packaging of their food is biodegradable and soft. There clothes are stylishly comfortable, and look to be made out of soft and eco-friendly fabrics. They live in a clean city, full of clean and attractive people, and they are not desperate or hungry for anything but a love that will engulf them and keep them afloat.

It's an amazing movie that sucks you in, but also leaves you aware of the people around you. Acutely aware. Somehow you end up feeling even more how the edge of your skin touch the air. You may start to think about the relationship you're in- is it realistic? And who are you because of it? It also addresses the idea of being alone in the age of social media, an age of fake relationships with shadowy people who may or may not exist. It's an act of faith to be in love, and a leap of faith to love something that you can't see, touch, or smell.

'Her' is an amazing accomplishment. More than a film, it's an exploration of what we mean when we say the word 'love' in 2014.


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