I’m having a hard time writing about this movie, because it hit me that hard. And Her isn’t nice about the way it hits you, either. No, first it lulls you into a false sense of security, making you think this will be a weird, quirky and awkward comedy where everyone wears high-waisted trousers, and then by the time you realize that this is actually very serious and intensely real it’s too late and you’re crying your eyes out in a theater and just hoping you don’t drip snot on your t-shirt because you didn’t think you’d need to bring a box of tissues along. This movie sucker punches your emotions in the nuts.
And this is the thing. It’s not cheap or manipulative oh my favorite character died. What hits you in this movie is that the pain is so very ordinary and human.
For all that this is a film about a man in an indistinct future year who falls in love with an artificial intelligence, the heart of the story isn’t the science fiction conceit, and I think that’s what makes it so powerful. Most of the time, speculative fiction is at its best when it uses that unreal element to explore what it is to be human, how we relate to each other, how we fit into the world. Her does that with beauty that looks almost effortless.
This is the most human movie I’ve seen in a long time. There are so many moments in the film that are pure, distilled awkwardness, sometimes played for laughs, sometimes painful, sometimes just there. Because let’s face it, being human is fucking awkward. That alone makes everything feel much more real than it has any right to be. The relationships are messy, and there are no easy answers offered. It’s about love, and relating to other people, and letting go, and being lonely, and relationships ending, and relationships beginning and…just everything that is really the lifeblood of being human that is beautiful and agonizing. There are no heroes or villains, there are just people–and I include the AI Samantha in that category.
I also should note that Her is visually gorgeous too, but it’s all a very ordinary sort of beauty, like a shot of steam escaping from under a manhole cover. They used the color orange a lot, which I haven’t seen often, and it feels very earthy, very rich. It’s not a blue-tinted scifi world, and I think even that made it feel more real. Everything looked like the colors we see around us in daily life, with perhaps a bit of haze.
I’m glad I watched Her, even if I spent the rest of the night feeling like someone had run over my heart with a truck. Definitely the best piece of scifi/fantasy from 2013–and 2013 was actually a good year for sf/f–and maybe the best I’ve seen in years. As a writer, I’m still struck by the complexity in the characters and their relationships and I came out of it hoping that some day I can manage to produce a piece of art like that. It’s beautiful. Take a box of tissues with you.