Theodore Twombly: What are you doing?
Samantha: I'm just sitting here, looking at the world and writing a new piece of music.
Theodore Twombly: Can I hear it? What's this one about?
Samantha: Well, I was thinking, we don't really have any photographs of us. And I thought this song could be like a photo that captures us at this moment in our life together.
Theodore Twombly: Aw, I like our photograph. I can see you in it.
Samantha: I am.
If you haven’t watched this movie yet, you need to figure out the most mundane and ordinary day to sit and binge through this cinematic work of art because you’ll need a good two hours later to stare at the wall and think about it. A little later in the week and in all the still and noiseless moments of your life too. But why are we talking about a six-year-old movie? Primarily because Her is a movie that stands more relevant today than ever and it will remain so for the next century.
This story spins around a fairly simple and reclusive guy, Theodore Twombly who writes heartwarming letters for a living at a company called (BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com)[BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com], letters that’ll make you feel a tingling sensation in your back and curl your toes. He’s your everyday Joe with a sweet and simple appearance, but if you look closely, he has a broken heart from his ex-wife that he is seen trying to mend throughout the movie. Her is set in an undisclosed time in the future, where technology has taken over the human life threefold than it does now, trickling down human interaction to its least.
Today, it’s completely normal for us to meet somebody via the internet or social media, talk to them, laugh with them, and maybe even fall in love with them in the process. Meeting the old fashioned way isn’t what you get to see very often- a café, two corner booths and eyes meeting over the same order of Irish coffee from across the room. Instead, it starts with a follow request or a right swipe. If that’s our cultural identity, then it’s not going too far to say that you can fall in love with an operating system; as shown in this ensemble by Spike Jonze.
If you gulped a little too hard at that, then sit tight because this story is all about the struggle of the self, about thinning the boundaries of the real and the unreal.
This is an adventure of the protagonist Theodore Twombly, who purchases a new operating system to better his life, exclusively designed for the personal needs of each individual. This operating system names herself Samantha, who is an ever-evolving device, learning from humans and picking up on their habits. He carries her around, shares the little and larger things about his day and most importantly- laughs wholeheartedly with her. He befriends her over their shared humour and easiness of being together which ultimately leads to falling in love with her, so much so that he isn’t afraid to accept it.
It might sound ridiculous to think of someone loving an inanimate object such as an OS but the intricacy with which Spike Jonze has written it and Joaquin Phoenix has flawlessly personified the character would take you on a roller coaster of emotions throughout the two hours of this movie.
A light banter over the phone becomes their everyday routine and Samantha feels more like a human with every passing minute, and so does their relationship. This delusion is conjured skillfully by the writer through the seclusion of characters from the world and the empathising nature of Theodore’s loneliness. The lightness in him and the calming effect of his presence gives a nice contrast to the brazenly out-there idea of the movie.
The only point of human contact that Theodore has is his neighbour and college best friend, Amy who provides him with little bits of sanity now and then, as most of our friends do for us. Telling them your innermost thoughts that sound beyond normal in your head, somehow begin to gain a sense of sanity as you voice it out to them.
When Amy tells him that she has become best friends with her OS since she left her husband, Theodore gathers the courage to say it out loud for the first time: that he is dating an operating system.
He somewhere feels that this is insane but Amy senses that and sympathises with him telling him that, “Falling in love is kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity”. This one line ties together the essence of the movie and the argument of what is acceptable and what isn’t. As long as you can accommodate and accept an idea in your head and heart, nothing is too far fetched.
As a result, you start to believe in their relationship and the genuineness of Samantha; which is the beauty of the screenplay and the one man tussle of Joaquin Phoenix, who carries us with him throughout the movie, never letting us go off the wagon even for a second.
However, this misty canvas of emotions comes washing down when one day he wakes up and calls Samantha, only to find out that she’s not there at the other end of the line. He tries in vain to connect to her repeatedly but it’s as if she vanished from his phone, his life. And in that brief second, their entire relationship flashes before his eyes, he’s panting and almost subliminal. Even though she’s back in the next moment, he realizes how fleetingly real this relationship was. One minute it was everything, and the next there was no trace of it in the world- it fizzled into thin air. For a spectator, this instance was like a snap out of a daydream as a huge underlying reality of the story hits you.
In addition to that, Theodore’s ex-wife, whom he has always had unresolved feelings for, learns about his relationship with an operating system, Samantha, and blatantly tells him that he is crazy to pursue such a relationship just because he cannot handle ‘real emotions.’ She even goes on to say that he had always wanted a wife without the challenges of actually dealing with something real. Her reaction gives us an insight into Theodore’s deepest insecurities and a more clear view of why his relationship with Samantha worked out.
He goes into a dour state of introspection and starts developing issues with Samantha. They fight, they cry and emotionalise, consummating the final step of their relationship and making it as human as it could have been. But the reality once slipped away, only drifts farther and farther in his mind.
What finally happens to Samantha and Theodore is something I’d leave up to you to comprehend for yourself. I’d urge you to go and watch the movie, for the feeling that it ends with is not something any writer can pen down in a review, let alone myself.
But what I can comment on is the complex and mind-twisting path chosen by Spike Jonze to portray modern love, the paradox of solipsism and its untwined relationship with technology in the 21st century. It makes us question the boundaries of love? The line that separates the real and the unreal is no more clear to one. This movie toys with the questions we’re too afraid to ask ourselves.
And that is the tangled beauty of this story - it leaves you with an unfamiliar feeling in the pit of your stomach towards the end because we humans like to know the why and how of everything, and that is something that this movie does not promise.
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