Review: Her

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2014
Her

TRAGIC ROMANCE: Joaquin Phoenix plays protagonist in Her.

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"Who knew you could rhyme so many words with Penelope?"

Yes, as his co-worker enthuses, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) truly is a master of his craft.

A lead writer at beautifulhandwrittenletters.com, he specialises in finding just the right words to help others commemorate their wedding anniversaries, graduations and other significant occasions.

However, away from the office Theodore feels lost and alone. Still scarred by his most recent break up he's tried to fill the void with chat lines, but has found them a less than satisfactory experience. But that was before Samantha.

An eager adopter of new technology, Theodore was keen to try OS1, a new artificially intelligent operating system - "not a speaking system, a consciousness".

Answering a few probing questions about himself was all it took for Sam (vocalised by the honeyed tones of Scarlett Johansson) to come into his life.

Within moments she's sorting out his hard drive ("I can't prioritise between the video games and internet porn), organising his schedule and stealing his heart. But while she's eager to learn everything she can from him, it's clear that only one in the relationship is going to grow.

Forget S1mOne, ARIIA, Lisa and Vikki, Sam is the real stuff of electric dreams.

Johansson's disembodied voice will have you re-programming Siri, your Sat Nav and your mobile's speaking clock.

However, while writer-director Spike Jonze's (Where the Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich) latest flight of fancifulness had the potential to be prurient, sexist and extremely creepy, it's actually one of the most touching, haunting and melancholic romantic-dramas in years.

Perhaps that's because its themes of loss of human connections and our growing reliance on electronic devices feel so pertinent.

Sure it's extrapolated to the nth degree in this unnervingly sanitised future but it never feels like it couldn't be the natural progression of where we're headed.

At Her's core is a terrific downbeat performance by Phoenix (The Master). There are echoes of Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl and Robin Williams in One Hour Photo as his meek, mopey and maudlin writer comes alive when stimulated by Sam's thirst for knowledge.

He's ably supported by a terrific cast that includes American Hustle's Amy Adams (playing his best friend and creator of the hilarious Perfect Mom computer game), House's Olivia Wilde and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's Rooney Mara.

Throw in an extremely evocative, dissonant soundtrack by Arcade Fire, some nifty camerawork and natty direction choices (the fade to black when Sam and Theodore "consummate" their relationship is inspired) and Her is the most elegant and elegiac meditation on love and loss since Jim Carrey decided wiping the memories of his last girlfriend was a good idea in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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