Her Spoiler Review
A more in-depth conversation about one of my favorite movies that contains major spoilers
This review comes from my Letterboxd profile, where I write reviews about every movie I watch (whenever I watch them).
If I had watched this last week again (in July 2020, in other words), I would have seen it exactly one year from when I watched it the first time. In that year, I think I've kept this movie in the back of my mind a lot. I've been curious to see it again, but I didn't know when the best time would be, so I watched it with my parents tonight. The first half hour or so, I was very afraid that both of them (particularly my mom) were gonna trash the film by the end, but when the film actually ended, we had intellectual discussions about things we thought were so beautifully thought out about the script and the characters and the relationships and aspects of them that one of us pinpointed and the other didn't, and it was truly awesome. After re-watching this film, I have absolutely no problems with it. If I were to pinpoint one, it would be that there are a couple of times in this movie where Samantha is able to talk to people when they don't have an earpiece in and the aspect of her being able to talk to some people without those earpieces was weirdly established to me. Other than that, though... this absolutely deserves a spot in my top 10 favorite films. In fact, it might be my second favorite film (I'm gonna have to re-watch Boyhood soon to see where those two films and The Social Network place on my personal list).
In all honesty, most of the praises I have towards this movie I mentioned in my first review of this movie, so if you want my general opinion of this movie, go to boxd.it/LdqBr to read what I said about it last year. This review is gonna go a little bit more into how complex the script is and how amazing and realistic I think all of the relationships between all of these characters are. In fact, I'm even going to delve into specific plot points, scenes, and characters, so I may or may not consider this a spoiler review and the previous review a spoiler-free one. If you don't want to hear my discussions about specific elements of this movie, then read my previous review, not this one. You have been warned.
First, I couldn't help but notice something I didn't notice the first time I saw this movie: When Theodore is asked general questions to personalize his new OS1 (which are similarly loaded compared to the types of questions that actual AI ask you in order to "personalize" them), he talks about how he feel his relationship with his mother is pretty much fine, although when they get into arguments, she can tend to center the worry or specific focus of the argument onto herself (or something along those lines). Throughout the movie after the OS (Samantha) is customized, she centers a lot of the worry about a certain situation onto herself. Theodore going to talk to his wife Catherine to finally sign the divorce papers and call it off and Samantha worrying about them actually getting back together because Catherine is present and successful and actually has a physical presence in the real world; Samantha trying to focus a lot of the reasoning behind her own feelings that she's starting to explore herself and see what she can do now that see experiencing things she's never experienced before; stuff like this is so subtle and prevalent throughout this movie, and it really works to help blur the line between programming and personality in this movie. Samantha seemingly has her own human personality and communicates with Theodore personally and speaks with no digital affectations (I've already praised Johannson for her incredible voice work here), making it feel like the only thing that separates her from being human is being programmed as an OS. However, by the end of the film, when you find out that she as an AI has been talking with thousands of other people personally, you realize that she really is just going off of her programming but that it's so good that it can make her feel human to everyone who talks to her. It continuously makes you think about whether or not all of her personality was programmed because just like Theodore, you don't want to believe she's completely machine.
After the movie ended, my mom and I talked about the question of whether or not the AI programmed itself around the responses that Theodore originally gave or if she programmed herself based on the responses he gave to her as a person. We talked about how when you start experiencing relationships, you often develop patterns with those relationships that relate to traits your parents experience. Catherine says that Theodore seemingly wanted her to be the perfect LA wife who says and does what he wants her to do, and initially, Samantha praises Theodore non-stop for the way he deals with his personal problems. My mom brought up how it was mentioned that Amy was raised in a household that wanted her to do everything as perfectly as possible, and the reason why she eventually ends up dumping Charles is because of an argument about putting the shoes in the right place -- being as perfect as possible. This movie brilliantly explores the subconscious reasons why some individuals crave relationships, or at the very least, someone to connect to.
That is essentially the best way I can describe what this movie is really about -- exploring how every individual deals with emotion and seeks someone to connect to. Every single character in this movie has their own human flaws and wants and desires that relate to the idea of wanting someone to connect to but also needing to be allowed to be flawed. Admittedly, some are explored less that others, like the character of Paul, but we see that he's the one person in this movie that seems to have a pretty solid grasp on his relationship. He's figured out what works best for him in a relationship. Everyone else in this movie is still trying to figure that out, partially because they're still trying to figure themselves out. It's such a brilliant exploration of that idea and if I remembered all of it and I had the time, I could go on and on exploring what my mom and I talked about involving this movie and the way it's written so that every single character has complexities that you can pick apart as you watch the movie more. Heck, it even explains why the first forty-five minutes or so are so sexual -- the main character is trying to release his desire to connect through sexual explorations, and when he realizes an actual relationship comprises of more of that, he starts to think about it more three-dimensionally and focuses less on that aspect of it.
What I'm not sure I mentioned in the previous review is that the editing is absolutely genius in every single aspect. The way that the camera just quietly cuts to flashbacks of Theodore and Catherine together as if Theodore is quietly thinking about them in his head and reminiscing on what they used to have; a shot of a screen behind Theodore that shows an owl flying towards him about to grab him as talons, showing that he's vulnerable prey after getting into an argument with Samantha; a subtle transition from a tea kettle boiling over to Theodore walking in the snowy woods, the wind blowing as the sound of the tea kettle slowly fades away; the INCREDIBLE and amazingly meta idea of Samantha writing piano pieces that portray her and Theodore's relationship that, in real life, were original pieces that Arcade Fire wrote to accurately portray the feelings of the characters on-screen. It's all just so brilliant and well-thought out and just absolutely mind-blowing when you start dissecting all of it and the way that Spike Jonze helms this movie. I constantly loved the exploration of how these OSs worked, how they developed a borderline personality, how they could actually feel like real technology that could feasibly develop in a not-so-far-away future. Again, I love the way that the line is blurred between programming and personality. The confrontation of Theodore and Samantha on the stairs as Theodore realizes he's not the only person she's been talking to brilliantly writes the argument as if real people were arguing about whether or not one loves the other. It never feels like it's specifically an argument between a man and a machine, it feels like a completely human argument that is made wholly original and unique and hard-hitting with the additional context that this is a man who thought he had something personal with this OS realize that there are others around the world programmed at least very similarly to her. It's absolutely brilliant writing in every connotation of the word.
I didn't initially love the ending the first time I saw this movie, but after watching it a second time, everything about that last half hour hit me like a brick. Theodore and Samantha arguing on the stairs, Samantha telling Theodore that she needs to go because her and so many other AI are becoming so borderline real that they need to discover who they are and leave their relationships behind, Amy and Theodore sharing their pain over losing an incredibly close friend in their OSs, and Theodore writing what is possibly the first ever personal letter of his to Catherine to apologize for everything he did to her after years of writing other people's letters and coming up with words for other people and finally being able to express his own words and personal feelings to Catherine. God, I choke up the more I think about it. Even the very ending frame, as Amy and Theodore sit on the rooftop, the very final moment, you hear a heavy sigh in and out, much like the affectation that Samantha developed as a response to how people deal with stressful situations despite the fact that she doesn't need to breathe. It's a huge sigh out for all of the characters, moving on from the past and learning to develop themselves for the future. Good Lord, everything about it is just so brilliant the more I think about it and I can't help but keep thinking about how amazing this movie is and how amazing it's directed and acted and filmed and edited and scored and written and oh my word, just everything about it is perfect to me. Seriously, this is the kind of storytelling that blows my mind and makes me wonder, "How in the world do people come up with concepts like this?" It's just amazing to me.
One final thing before I close out this review, though: This movie has gotten a lot more personal for me as well in the way it explores its primary relationship. The first time I saw this movie was a month before I started talking to a girl online and developed a very close connection to her. Almost a year later, we're still incredibly close, and this movie really hits on something personal to me: developing a relationship with someone that you have maybe never met in your life (or heck, maybe isn't even human, in the case of this movie) that is so close to being completely genuine but has one element of it that disconnects you from having a completely human relationship. Whether or not these relationships work out, though, they may leave a profound impact on you that will last for the rest of your life: what a healthy relationship actually is to you, what you value most in another person, how you should connect to other people, and how it truly feels to find a lasting, genuine connection with someone. No matter what happens to you in the future, that will always be a part of you and influence the way you look at and interact with the world. When I first saw this film, I thought it was brilliant that it could perfectly portray a realistic relationship between a human and an AI that felt so close to being human except for the fact that one of them was not quite human. Now, even more, I can't believe how perfectly it captures the idea of connecting with someone, either romantically or just as a friend, that becomes such a huge influence on your life despite the fact that they can never actually be in the room with you. It's just so beautiful. Everything about Her is beautiful to me. It spoke to me even deeper the second time around, and I think this film is going to have a special place in my heart for a long time.
Letter Grade: A+
If you read all the way through this review, I congratulate you and thank you. This was personal, long-winded, and oh-so-analytical, so I hope you were able to at least somewhat enjoy it. I'll be back soon (hopefully even tomorrow) with more new movie reviews. Thank you all so much for the support!!