Her is the love story of our generation. It is a story that could not be told at any other time in history except for ours. More specifically, it is about a man who falls in love with his computer*. The man’s name is Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix). And its name is Samantha. Or should I say… her name is Samantha. In a very innocent but telling opening conversation between Theodore and Samantha, he questions this name.
Theodore: Where did you get that name from?
Samantha: I gave it to myself actually.
Theodore: How come?
Samantha: ‘Cause I like the sound of it.
The “how come?” question is not a “how come you chose that name?” question, but more of a “how come a computer program like you need a name?” and “how come a computer program like you can ‘choose’ something for yourself?”
It is under the assumption that only human beings can make choices and, more importantly, be able to articulate reasons for the choices we make. Samantha, from what we gather, easily accomplishes these two tasks with graceful ease. But what is most refreshing and attractive about Samantha, aside from her extraordinary wit and deceptively seductive voice, is her friendliness. Her willingness to befriend Theodore and help him out with his life is what makes her different. We can sense a genuine enthusiasm coming from her. It is not hard to see why Theodore falls in love with her.
That feeling is reciprocated as Samantha also learns to love Theodore. A good question to ask here is whether Samantha loves Theodore by choice or by pre-programming shenanigans. But the film by-passes that question because there is a more nagging question underlying the film: will Samantha continue to love Theodore the more she gets to know him? What bothers Theodore is not whether or not the love from Samantha is “real” but whether or not Samantha will leave him behind. What does it feel like to be rejected by your own computer?
I don’t really care much for science-fiction, but the ones I end up liking almost always happen to be stories about what it means to be human and how technology is used to cope with loneliness and despair. Her is no exception.
*I know the movie calls it an “operating system” and it’s not limited to just his computer as the protagonist also brings it along on his cellphone-like device as well.