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Challenge Your Notions of Love with “Her”

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What is love? What does it actually mean to us? We can define it, technically. We can recognize it when we see it, potentially. In the new film “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Scarlett Johansson, the true meaning of the word love comes under scrutiny. Alternately, this line of logic follows hand in hand with the idea of our dependence upon technology.

Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is a lonely writer who works for a company that specializes in personal letters to your loved ones. They put to paper the words that you just can’t find on your own. Theodore has been going through a messy divorce and is disillusioned with the concept of love and moving on. That is until the new OS operating system comes out. It is a personalized program designed to grow with you and learn from you. The rest of the film follows Theodore and his evolving relationship with his OS system named Samantha.

I have seen many naysayers attack the film and call it “that movie where the guy screws the iPhone.” While I did have a few uncomfortable moments with the “sex” scenes between Theodore and Samantha, it did not detract from my awe at the cinematography, character development or the challenge to my own understanding of what it means to love.

In the world of the film, it becomes pretty common for people to begin dating their OS operating systems. The program is so advanced that is begins to know you better than you do. That is one of the main traits that we look for in potential partners, so it seemed a logical progression to me. The trials that every relationship encounters are represented in the interactions between Theodore and Samantha. What amazed me most was the portrayal of jealousy and earnestness between them. They accept one another in a way that most conventional couples couldn’t even come close to.

Ultimately, the main problem is that Samantha advances in her consciousness and evolves beyond the need to connect with Theodore. He is left alone again, but has acknowledged the faults that led him to grow so dependent upon Samantha in the first place. Theodore was looking for love in all the wrong places. He wanted all of the good things without all the complications that filter through. By the end of the film he has come to realize that he is capable of love, but that love is not clean or perfect. Samantha teaches him a lot about himself. He has a long way to go, but his new awareness should at least allow him a better path to happiness in the future.

Think about technology and where it is going. What happens when we grow even more dependent on it? What happens when it’s programmed to love us back, and what would that kind of love mean to an entity not bound by biological restrictions? These are the types of things that flood your mind as the credits begin to roll. This is an amazing film. It is thought-provoking, poignant, sensual, complicated and purposefully makes you uncomfortable for brief moments in order to make you ask yourself why in the hell you’re feeling that way.

Director/Writer Spike Jonze makes us think about what love actually is in an era when we are drifting so far from one another.

By: Kyle Yung

My name is Kyle Yung. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in theatre and English from Hanover College, as well as a Masters Degree in creative writing from Full Sail University. I have a wide array of experience, including starting a community theatre company, working as a sound designer, photographing sports for a newspaper and operating heavy machinery at a steel mill.