Saturday, 7 March 2015

Noteworthy Films of 2014: Her

Spike Jonze has been a director that I’ve never been terribly fond of. I didn’t share the same admiration for Magnolia as many critics did, yet Being John Malkovich did strike a cord. His latest film, Her, was one that felt all too relevant in modern day society’s inseparable relationship to technology. While the concept of an over-intelligent A.I. is one that often churns up unsavoury predictions of Judgement Day or the Apocalypse, Her builds its premise around the melancholy of failed love and the resulting vulnerability. From a glance, it could be taken as a soppy, artsy piece of schlock, but with some fantastic writing and magnificent performances Her is radiant and poignant in its unique approach to the romance genre. 

The notion of A.I/ Human intimacy is one that is often frowned upon or joked at, yet Spike Jonze’s direction strangely translates the “man and software” premise into a degree of normality. Samantha, the film’s A.I., never becomes a physical entity as so often happens in this types of films. Yet the entire relationship feels somewhat grounded and surprisingly believable. Skipping the “child-like discovery” filler, Her presents Samantha as a sophisticated personality that quickly experiences the progression and imperfections of humanity, and the complexity of emotion. 

But it’s the pair’s comforting conversations and mannerisms that manages to project this as reminiscent of two actual loved ones communicating just through voice. The unavoidable awkwardness is present and on display in some of the film’s more emotionally intense moment, but Jonze plays it as the fragility of any human relationship. Additionally there’s a vulnerability through the entire picture and within each character that all stem from collapsed romances. From Joaquin Phoenix’s timid and introverted personality after his divorce, to Amy Adam’s own struggles with her partner, the film never glosses over or belittles this sympathetic theme. 

Key to the entire film’s success is its performances. Scarlett Johansson’s vocal work is fabulous, managing to convey a range of emotions and experiences through subtle intonations and changes in intensity. Meanwhile Phoenix does a terrific job playing the overly melancholy lead, maybe a bit too well. It’s the believability of the two’s interactions and exchanges that really sells this “unnatural” relationship and the film’s premise. With a supporting cast of Amy Adams and Rooney Mara, Her is awash with fine talent and it shows.

I’ve never been a fan of romantic dramas, but Her acts as a distinct and thought-provoking study into the labyrinth of “love”, meanwhile exploring the notions of human and technology’s connections. With a vividness and radiancy to the cinematography which uses ambient lighting and the abundance of colour, and a soundtrack that similarly offers emotional texture to the entire drama, Her is a beautiful film that undoubtably left an impression on me. 

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