Spike Jonze’s “Her” made its debut in theaters last year. This refreshing and bold narrative emphasizes how connection unfolds in a society where technological advancement can potentially substitute substantial and tangible human contact.
Set in Los Angeles in the near future, “Her” features Theodore Twombly — a kind, lonely and introverted man who’s trying to navigate through the heartache of his recently failed marriage. (I personally found him to be an endearing character who warrants lots of hugs.)
The viewer can gauge that he desires connection; he yearns to forge a relationship with someone. Yet, as the film progresses and the inner workings of his last relationship come to light, we see that he’s also struggled with connecting as well.
“I think I hid myself from her, left her alone in the relationship,” Theo confesses in one scene. He had trouble with vulnerability, with sifting through his emotional terrain, and in turn, he most likely had a difficult rapport with his ex-wife — with being there for her when needed.
Enter Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the operating system that Theo genuinely falls in love with, an operating system that helps him transcend his own emotional limitations.
Theo’s connection with Samantha, which encompasses highs and lows, mirrors an authentic human relationship. (There were points in the film where I forgot that Samantha didn’t possess a body, that she wasn’t an actual human being.)
Yet, Jonze told the Wall Street Journal that the movie isn’t supposed to be a commentary on technology. He essentially wanted to convey a story about a relationship.
“She’s able to engage him in a way that inspires him and angers him,” Jonze said. “Her emotions are real to her. And he ultimately can’t know her in the same way that he can’t know anyone outside his own subjective emotional view of life. We can empathize as deeply as we can empathize. We can connect. And that’s the sort of leap we have to make. For Samantha, she lives in a computer, but is her consciousness any less of a consciousness to her?”
Echoing Jonze’s sentiments: Is a body crucial in order to establish a legitimate connection with another?
Jessica Gross’s piece offers a very interesting perspective regarding Theo and Samantha’s dynamic. Gross insightfully suggests that Samantha ultimately teaches Theo how to embrace his humanity, how to process his emotions, be vulnerable and relate to others.
“Of course, Samantha doesn’t cure Theodore of his own defenses,” Gross writes. “But we progress, as Theodore does, slowly in fits and starts. He’s getting closer and less afraid.”
He even tells Samantha that her impact is quite significant: “I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you.”
“I know,” she said. “Me too. Now we know how.”
I didn’t know what to expect from “Her,” a story that revolves around a man who falls for a machine. However, despite the fact that she wasn’t inherently human, Theo’s relationship with Samantha embodied a very real connection that incorporated painful lessons, growth and love. And that’s a beautiful thing.