Theo Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) is seeing the sights with his girlfriend Samantha (Scarlett Johansson)

Theo Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) is seeing the sights with his girlfriend Samantha (Scarlett Johansson)

Reel Reviews: Her gives love a byte

Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a loner who falls in love with his computer, is an interesting and unique film, but less than perfect.

  • Apr. 11, 2014 2:00 p.m.

Theo Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sensitive, expressive man living in the near future.

He’s employed at a company where he writes elegant letters for people who can’t express themselves to their own liking. He helps people explain their feelings, break up, or perhaps fall in love (like a personalized Hallmark card writer.) He is a bit shy and his own life is mostly spent alone, working or playing video games.

After seeing advertisements for a new computer operating system, OS1, which promises to be more than just a computer, it’s a consciousness, Theo buys one. After installing, the OS1 asks Theo some pertinent personality questions and then he is introduced to Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the voice coming out of his computer.

Samantha is quite like a child at first, curious and wanting to learn about the world and Theo. She’s able to see and hear through Theo’s phone and they spend more and more time together, walking around town, seeing the sights, getting to know each other, falling in love.

Unfortunately, like many inexperienced loves, this one wanders, but in a way that is only possible in a digital world.

We say, “It’s an interesting and unique film, but less than perfect.”

TAYLOR: I liked Her, when I saw it back in January. I’m glad that it’s found its way to the big screen in Vernon. I’m not sure why some movies make it here and others don’t. Her is worth watching. It won a well deserved Oscar for best original screenplay. The win isn’t that surprising, although we had some great scripts last year, here we have a film where everything is dialogue. This is a rich, somewhat odd world of the future, deceptively void of any hint of deterioration, no dystopia here. Samantha and Theo fall in love in a squeaky clean plastic city of bright colours and happy Americans.

HOWE: I really liked this movie. It just proves that you don’t need a huge budget or over-the-top special effects to make a film that has you hooked from the moment you start watching it till the end. This year’s Oscars must have been really tough to judge because to me this is up there with 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club, and if you asked me to pick one I would have had a hard time. Joaquin Phoenix is excellent again as he was a couple of years ago in The Master.

TAYLOR: Joaquin downplays the quiet Twombley into a wallflower. Johansson, effervescent and eager, despite being a purely vocal performance, helps Twombley bloom.

HOWE: Her asks questions about human nature. Do we need flesh and bone to love and be loved? Do we need human interaction so we don’t get lonely or will we be blissfully happy plugging into our computer/games machine and losing ourselves in an artificial reality? Is there a difference? So I guess the big, overall question the film asks is, what is love?

– Howe gives Her 4.5 off-lines out of 5.

– Taylor gives it 4 theories of mind out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Vernon Towne Cinema, downtown.

– Brain Taylor and Peter Howe are film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C. Their column, Reel Reviews, runs in The Morning Star Fridays and Sundays.