Prior to the release of Spike Jonze’s love story Her last year, the film was essentially the butt of a joke. A guy falls in love with his phone? Ridiculous. How would that even work? Well the key, apparently, is Spike Jonze. The filmmaker turned a very simple and potentially laughable premise into one of the most engaging, affecting, and emotional love stories in recent memory. Her isn’t just about how a guy falls in love with his phone, it’s about how we, humanity, love one another in the modern age. It’s one of the things that makes us uniquely human, and Jonze explores issues relating to relationships—both romantic and platonic—against a gorgeous and fascinating sci-fi backdrop to phenomenal results, anchored by an incredible, delicate lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Read my full Her Blu-ray review after the jump.
Spike Jonze’s Her takes place in the year 2025 and revolves around Theodore Twombly, a lonely writer who composes letters for other people for a living. Twombly keeps to himself and is rather depressed when we first meet him, attempting (and failing) to get over the dissolution of his marriage. He purchases a new operating system that carries the world’s first artificially intelligent OS, and this is when he meets Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The two strike up a rapport as Samantha helps Twombly with OS-centered tasks, but eventually the duo begin to have romantic feelings for one another as they become more familiar. The rest of the film finds them navigating the ups and downs of this novel relationship, as Samantha begins to evolve a greater understanding of the human condition and Twombly starts to feel happiness once again.
There are so many ways this film could have gone wrong, but Jonze hits absolutely every note perfectly. The relationship between Theodore and Samantha never feels weird, due in large part to the deeply human performances by both Phoenix and Johansson. Jonze really digs deep into the notion of love and relationships, using this sci-fi premise as a wonderful device with which to explore what really makes us human. How do we really connect with another human being? What makes one relationship more “real” than another? What makes one human? Through the relationship between Theodore and Samantha, we gain a greater understanding of these issues and so much more.
The unsung MVP of Her, though, is Amy Adams. She plays Theodore’s longtime friend Amy with grace and confidence, and you’re always left wanting more whenever an Amy scene ends. She’s not only a sounding board for Theodore’s second-guessing of his relationship, but also offers her own perspective of the world and love. Following her breakup with her longtime boyfriend, she notes how we only have a finite amount of time on this Earth, and in that time she wants to feel “as much joy as I can.”
Though Her is first and foremost a love story, it’s also a terrific sci-fi film. Jonze delves into how our increasing ease of connectivity actually appears to be leading to a less-connected world—I mean, Theodore literally works as a human proxy for people who can’t even be bothered to write their own letters to one another. We’re so close yet so far, leaving us with an emptiness that’s difficult to fill.
The craftsmanship of the film is absolutely stellar as well. Few other sci-fi movies in in recent memory have felt as real and lived-in as Her, as Jonze infuses every frame with a gorgeously warm color palette and expertly composed shots that reflect the loneliness of Theodore. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema is at the top of his game here, and along with the beautifully hypnotic score by Arcade Fire’s William Butler and spot-on costumes, every inch of Her feels alive.
The Blu-ray transfer of the film is positively stunning. Jonze’s palate shines vibrantly onscreen, especially in closeups, and the wonderful soundtrack envelops the viewer though the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
Though the bonus features included on the Blu-ray are disappointingly light, what is included is at least fascinating. Though an audio commentary or more in-depth documentary would have been very much welcome for such a unique film.
- The Untitled Rick Howard Project (24 minutes) – This is as close as the extras come to a “making-of” featurette, though director Lance Bangs chronicles the behind-the-scenes of Her in more artistic fashion. Again, it’s interesting, but it left me yearning for a more lengthy and in-depth doc.
- Her: Love in the Modern Age (15 minutes) – Also directed by Bangs, this featurette is more about the themes of the film and how they resonate with viewers rather than the film itself. After Jonze showed the movie to his friends, Bangs interviewed them separately to talk about love. Some great insights are gleaned that also speak to how Her is both universal and personal at the same time.
- How Do You Share Your Love with Somebody? (4 minutes) – A more artful, less traditional trailer for the film that wonderfully captures what Her is all about.
Even if this Blu-ray release had zero bonus features, it would still be well worth your money. This miracle of a love story is just as affecting—if not moreso—on subsequent viewings, and really relishing the film’s aesthetics on Blu-ray is a delight. The extras are admittedly very light, and one would love to see an eventual Criterion Collection iteration of the film given how heavy and fruitful the themes are, but this Blu-ray purchase is a solid buy regardless. Buy it, watch it, show it to your skeptical friends.