Spike Jonze’s new film ‘Her’ isn’t simply about a man that falls in love with an operating system. It also isn’t about our obsession for mobile devices and social media. Though we are able to draw from these story elements our own reflections, the story transcends the absurdity of our dependence on these technologies and finds the existential crisis we all share: the need to connect with other personalities.
I use the term “personality” because sometimes that is what people on the other end of a txt message or email become. They communicate, they speak in our language. They give the impression of attitudes and moods. They laugh and express sorrow. It is familiar enough that we can inject our own understanding into the antiseptic world of LCDs and txts and feel a connection – even if we’ve never heard their voice.
In ‘Her,’ however, we do hear a voice. It’s beautiful and lilting, genuine and intrigued – responsive, but artificial. In every sense, other than the voice being entirely fabricated by technology, it is real. And the voice’s fascination with our hero, and his world, makes us see past the absurdity of loving an operating system. As he falls in love with her – an OS named “Samantha” – we don’t feel compelled to judge him. We understand it. We have all witnessed a friend enter an “impossible” relationship – one that we know will backfire – but despite our objections and warnings we watch and wait, because we get it. We’ve been there. That the people in our hero’s world accept his relationship with Samantha gives us all the more reason to follow him on this path. When we learn of his failed marriage we want nothing more for our hero than to find love again – anywhere, and at all costs. And the deeper he falls in love with the OS, the more we shrug off the absurdity of loving something that is nothing more than a voice comprised of ones and zeros.
Of course, ultimately, his relationship with the OS will fail. They are from different worlds. He cannot, by his very nature, stimulate her intellect the way another OS can. He simply isn’t fast enough to keep up with her, and he can never know enough to constantly surprise her. He eventually comes to face a fear we all feel at one time or another: that one day we may no longer be good enough for the person we love. It is sometimes due to our nature, it is sometimes due to complacency and getting too comfortable that we stop trying to better ourselves. Here, we see both, at different times.
The ending left me hopeful. It’s about learning. It’s about being in the moment. It’s about self-examination and repentance. It’s about self-forgiveness. And it’s about really moving on, not just saying we’re ready to love again. It’s about all the things we struggle with on a daily basis when we choose to mix our private lives with another personality.