When you lose eye contact with the person you are talking to as their attention passes to their smartphone or when your path is blocked by someone who has stopped abruptly to tap onto a phone key you may wonder why Spike Jonze’s film, Her (Cert 15), about a guy who falls in love with his computer, is considered science fiction.
But we are in 2025 and Los Angeles has become a clean city of elevated walkways and spacious high rise glass apartments (many of the exteriors were shot in Shanghai) with no sign of poverty and cars. Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix with nerdish glasses and droopy moustache, has a job composing touching, personal letters for other people who are too busy to write them for themselves.
Moping over the end of his marriage , he spends his spare time playing video games or dialing up phone sex. But his listless existence is transformed when he spots an advert for a new phone app which promises to be an intuitive entity in its own right, individual to each user. After opting for a female OS he he is delighted to meet “Samantha,” a bright, female voice (provided by a purring Scarlett Johannson). She starts by organising his inbox and is soon proofreading his writing and fixing his diary. She proves insightful, sensitive and funny (and laughs at his jokes). He has found a soulmate.
At the same time she develops needs and desires of her own and their friendship deepens into a mutual love. It is both a quirky love story and a satire on our reliance on technology and its effect on human interaction and intimacy.
It’s funny and thought-provoking and Phoenix gives a surprisingly restrained, effective performance, often having to react to thin air. The trouble is there comes a point where you realise there is really nowhere for Jonze to go with it beyond the basic premise and towards the end it goes a bit flat.