Right. Valentine’s Day and a ticket to the Tyneside Cinema for one. For Her. I had gone for a drink prior to the start of the film in the pouring rain, on the way out my umbrella covered with tiny red hearts had decided to break when I needed it the most, so I unceremoniously dumped it in the bin, handle end in first, trying to make it into some kind of anti V day art. I already knew it was a fitting precursor to the film.
It started and the first thing that spoke to me was the colour. Multi-coloured hues in a futuristic office setting (or Google currently). Spike Jonze’s years of experience with visuals at its best.We are shown a glimpse into a not too distant future – voice activated phones, fully interactive video games, hyper efficiency as a result of technological advances. A fast paced world set in a near futuristic LA with many shots of high rises. The lack of connection with each other we are experiencing currently is even more evident, the separation in the streets is cleverly conveyed.
It was ominous from the start. Theodore/Joaquin spends his days writing love letters for other people, who in this futuristic place are clearly too busy for such emotional and time consuming tasks, when they could be doing some far more important tech related thing. He is gifted at it, a romantic going through a difficult divorce, a loner without many friends, a victim of the time he lives in. His job must only make him feel worse – it would be the last thing that I would want to do in that situation. Being forced to be romantic when your heart’s been ripped out. Maybe a reason why he decides to buy an artificially intelligent operating system called Samantha, who in theory is supposed to organise his life but goes outside of her remit, so to speak.
Then the first of many questions the film throws up comes into play. Is it wrong to have such a relationship? Is he weird? Should we judge him for getting close to someone who doesn’t exist? Others do judge, at first. Then the situation becomes more accepted. Other characters relationships aren’t exactly perfect (Amy Adams and her husband, his workmate and his lawyer girlfriend) so if it’s making him happy why not? Samantha is light, funny and her only real demand is to see more the world Theodore inhabits (far less than most women). She is there whenever he needs her and makes him feel good. The uplifting scenes showing him rediscovering his joie de vivre after his relationship breakdown, being silly and childlike at her instruction are really beautiful and I made a mental note to try and do the same thing. The flashbacks to his previous relationship chart the typical highs and lows, I especially liked when they were messing around with traffic cones on their heads.
But like most people (trying to be politically correct), she starts to demand more and more of the relationship. She wants to experience what it’s like to be human and pushes the relationship to its limits, with frustrating results. Insecurities creep in on both sides. He starts to demand more. All too familiar things start to happen…
Joaquin is fantastic as usual, being in nearly 100% of the scenes, with many close ups and emotionally demands. We all knew it was perfect casting – a geeky loner with high waisted trousers, who else could play that as well? The humour that runs throughout is needed to break up the emotion of it (I loved the character in the video game). Scarlett is perfectly cast as the playful OS. Amy Adams is typically on form as his friend and confidante.
I was in tears for most of it, because it was so honest and so easy to relate to, especially if you’ve ever tried to have a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable or not obtainable for whatever reason. I think the number of people in online relationships currently or alternative relationships to the norm is probably a lot higher than we think, possibly caused by people prioritising their smartphones and tablets over others. I get on the train every morning to work and witness the willingness to disconnect, characterised by bags on seats to stop others sitting next to them and maybe conversing, and earphones in/laptops out. We are all too busy. But too busy doing what?
The film makes you question how you spend your time, what is important, who is important and poses difficult questions about relationships and connection. Do we get in our own way when it comes to relationships? Are we blocking ourselves from experiencing something real by our habits in the modern world? Or are there real relationships in the online world to be found? Should we be grateful for any interaction that makes us happy? You know it’s good when it throws up so many questions. It reminded me to live in the moment and to be less judgemental.
Thanks to the lady who found me in a heap in the loos afterwards who invited me for a glass of wine and to discuss the film with her friends – I needed it 🙂