Release Date: 14th February 2014
Running Time: 126 minutes
Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt
Romance is in the air this week, and unimaginative lovers everywhere are scrambling to buy tacky, over-priced nonsense from petrol stations in a mad dash to avoid an argument with their partner. Some might even go to the effort of attending a cinema, where their romantic fantasises will be played out by beautiful men and women committing to each other for life, because we all love to be lied to on a day that’s supposedly all about emotional connection. Indeed, this Valentine’s is no different, with the likes of Endless Love being unleashed to give couples everywhere reasons to resent each other for not being perfect. However this year also sees the release of Her; and at first glance a story about a man falling in love with a computer system might seem a bit mad and a little creepy. However hugely to its credit, it’s actually not at all: Her is the most romantic film you’re likely to see all year, and probably will be for a while longer.
Set in the near future, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) makes a living writing letters for those having trouble finding words to communicate with their loved ones. Struggling to deal with his recent divorce, Theo spends his spare time moping and playing video games until he decides to purchase a new operating system known as the OS1, which takes the (non-physical) form of a woman known as Samantha (Scarlet Johansson). As Samantha gets more inquisitive and Theo continues to confide in her, what unveils is a very real and naturally progressing romance, with both complimenting each other’s needs and desires at a time where both parties are unsure of themselves and their place in the world.
It goes without saying that Joaquin Phoenix is really rather good. Anyone who has seen him in, well, anything, will know that he’s one of the finest actors of his generation. What really surprises here though is how warm he can be, given that he’s mostly known for playing slightly unhinged characters.The support are all top notch too; Amy Adams is reunited with her co-star from The Master and once again shines as his equally lonely best friend, and Johnasson, who despite never physically appearing brings a fully realised and heart-breaking performance as Samantha. The film itself looks equally impressive: the soft edges and muted hues suggest another-worldliness, which is in turn heightened by the story’s science fiction elements.
Rarely has a film questioned the paradoxical nature of love so poignantly. The tension between selfishness and generosity dominating their emotions enables Theo and Samantha to grow and mature throughout their relationship in a way that offers no easy answers, but instead allows them to discover their own potential, and as a consequence a new lease of life. “Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m gunna feell” confides Theo at one point, his ennui threatening to consume him from the inside out: it is not the promise of a happy ending that is so romantic in Her, but rather the ability for love to heal and open doors. In a world where everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening, what can be more romantic than two souls finding an intimate connection? A joy from start to finish, this is Spike Jonze’s best work to date, and quite possibly the most endearing romance since Annie Hall. Go on, go and see something genuinely romantic this Valentines instead of crying into your take-away pizza.