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Review: Her, Ipswich Film Theatre, Ipswich, until March 20!

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Review: Her, Ipswich Film Theatre, Ipswich, until March 20!

Her is written and directed by Spike Jonze. It premiered in the UK on February 14.

Her is the latest film to come from Spike Jonze, best known for directing the highly acclaimed Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.

The film looks to be his first stab at writing an original screenplay for a feature film, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich both written by the genius that is Charlie Kaufman. With all that in mind, Jonze delivers a wonderful film – subtle, funny and clearly a lot of time and thought have been invested into an interesting concept.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore, a writer that struggles with life and relationships after his failed marriage to his childhood sweetheart. The film’s initial incident comes when Theodore downloads an artificially intelligent operating system called Samantha. Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, is designed to fulfil his every need and quickly starts to play the role of the companion Theodore so clearly desires.

The story focuses around the two characters’ relationship as we see both of them struggling to deal with the feelings that they have for each other. Theodore begins by teaching Samantha about the emotions she is feeling for the first time and showing her the world. Theodore has doubts and is reluctant to enter into a relationship at first, but as he falls in love Samantha begins to outgrow his fears.

Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant; it is clear from his last major film, The Master, that he is an accomplished actor able to give a performance with all the highs and lows to carry a film. However, as Theodore, he plays a character completely removed from what we usually expect from him. He is damaged but warm and beautifully brings an understated realism to a relationship in which we only see one of the participants. 

The story is set in a realistic vision of the future. It avoids the cliched flying cars, space travel and skin-tight body suits that so often enter into the sci-fi genre. Instead, this movie treats the audience like adults. The differences are very subtle; we are not reminded every scene that it is the future, instead the story focuses on the narrative and gently allows some elements of the futuristic society to interact with the story instead of screaming at you to “look at all the cool stuff we have in the future!” This means that the small ideas it does introduce – mainly the idea of a human having a relationship with an operating system – can be fully exhumed.

At some points in the film you want Samantha and Theodore to end up together, at other points you don’t and in the end it almost doesn’t matter. This is what is so great about the film: that the universal truth the story focuses on is that human relationships are difficult and it manages, somehow, to show a realistic depiction of that whilst still making a rye satirical comment about society’s ongoing affair with technology.

If you can see this film, you should. It is easily one of the best of 2013. Playing now at the Ipswich Film Theatre.

Words: Jacob Lees


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