Joaquin and Scarlett strike a vocal cord

Mobile dating app Tinder was little more than a twinkle in a developer’s eye when Spike Jonze was writing his wry, singular screenplay for Her. But its advent has only made the movie’s imagined future feel more relevant.

In an early scene, Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely writer Theodore scans a selection of audio-only personal ads, in search of a voice that appeals. “Is anybody out there?” one asks, plaintively. The ostensible aim is phone sex – instant gratification – but the real endgame is connection, in any form, with anyone.

Set in a future where technology has advanced while fashion has regressed (high-waisted trousers abound), Her sees recently divorced Theo gradually fall for Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), an artificially intelligent operating system who is first his secretary, then his confidante, and finally his lover.

Recalling last year’s sharp, unsettling Ruby Sparks, she is pre-programmed as his dream girl, based on a brief answer he gives to a question about about his mother. “Love is a form of socially acceptable insanity,” Theo’s neighbour Amy (Amy Adams) reasons, upon hearing the news.

Dating an OS isn’t unheard of in this future, and Jonze depicts it with compassion. A doomed hook-up between Theo and a blind date (Olivia Wilde) is shot in lurching close-ups and feels more artificial and frightening than any of his warm and intimate exchanges with Samantha.

Though Her’s scenario isn’t exactly an everyday one, the pain, joy and fear that Jonze depicts feels universal. The shifting power dynamic between Theo and Samantha as she begins to dream and hope and move beyond her programming feels painfully authentic.

She clings on and he’s remote, then he invests and she withdraws. Despite a few wobbles, it’s a convincing dance, sustained as much by Johansson’s vivid, vulnerable vocal performance as by Phoenix’s brittle turn.

Nothing in Her’s world exists for the sake of it: every techno-quirk has something to say. One especially sharp comedic strand sees Amy develop a videogame called Perfect Mom, in which points are won by making other mums jealous and lost by feeding your kids processed sugar.

In a more unsettling scene, Samantha hires a surrogate to have sex with Theo on her behalf, using her voice via an earpiece. That disconnect between sound and touch, between physical sensation and emotional impact, is at the heart of this shrewd, often funny and occasionally brutal exploration of intimacy.


For all its techno-focus, a very human love story about our need for connection. Strange, witty, honest and curiously comforting.

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Film Details

User Reviews

    • sineadshahrzad

      Jan 21st 2014, 8:40

      Great review, very thorough. "Her" could feel a bit uncomfortable at times, but the overall feel is, as mentioned in the article, "Strange, witty, honest and curiously comforting."

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    • matthewbrady

      Jan 31st 2014, 18:44


      Scarlett Johnansson voice in this movie is so beautiful to listen to. Her. this movie has the best love story with a robot and a human in any other movies and Scarlett and Phoenix worked together perfect in the movie.

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    • raroe

      Feb 15th 2014, 0:17


      Her. Well where do I start. This film by Spike Jonze (Where the wild things are, Being John Malkovich) is simply... Flawless. Set in Los Angeles in the near future, this movie explores the relationship between a man and his computer operating system names Samantha. Think a sexy 'Siri'. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly a lonely man going through a marriage break up, he finds comfort and love in his relationship with the O.S that controls his cell phone and computer devices. Scarlett Johansson voices Samantha, a performance worthy of awards by Johansson as she breathes life into the character. This film is touching and heart warming, supporting roles from the likes of Amy Adams and Rooney Mara make this film one of the best this year. Worthy of nominations its receiving around the awards circuits. I never thought id see a sex scene between a man and his phone in a film and still think its brilliant but now I have. when you can go see Her in the cinema you wont regret it. its brilliant.

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    • csav55

      Feb 21st 2014, 13:52

      Four of us saw this film last week, I'm afraid we all dozed off and found the film boring, we left after an hour along with 10 other people in the cinema. I think it would work well as an hour long radio play but for us it didn't work on the screen. It all seemed a bit childish and I didn't think the main character was all sympathetic. Maybe it's age thing, we're all in our late 50's but the other people leaving were much younger so just a matter of taste I suppose.

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    • justme1

      Mar 4th 2014, 4:58

      the site doesn't let me rate the movie, so i will do it in my comment. 5* :) great movie. the review above made me lol....

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