Despite the fact that Spike Jonze directed one of my favourite films of all time - the remarkable “Being John Malkovich” - I’ve been lukewarm about much of his other output (e.g. “Adaptation”), and almost didn’t bother to go and see “Her”. It turns out that this would have been highly regrettable, since it’s a fine piece of work.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a heart-broken divorcee, who downloads a new computer operating system, Samantha, played by a husky-voiced Scarlet Johansson, and begins a romantic relationship with her. Set in a near-future Los Angeles with all-pervasive wi-fi, a world in which everyone is constantly communicating with strangers only they can hear, it’s clever, moving, and sweetly funny, with excellent performances: Phoenix playing wounded and vulnerable, Amy Adams as his empathetic best friend, Rooney Mara as the unhappy ex-wife, Olivia Wilde as a would-be lover who takes offence at his emotional unavailability. The visuals are impressive (as might be expected from one of the great pop video-makers), and the interaction between Samantha and Twombly (and others – a scene with his young god-daughter is especially charming) is cleverly handled - apparently Samantha Morton played the heroine on-set, only to be replaced in post-production. The score, by Owen Pallet and Arcade Fire is sensitive and unintrusive.
Both main characters develop throughout the piece, Twombly reconnecting with his emotions and Samantha prompted to embark on her own journey of self-discovery. Jonze (who also wrote the screenplay) could probably have cut 20 minutes or so of picturesque musing, but “Her” is a beautiful, emotionally satisfying piece of work.