Questioning love, in 126 minutes

I recently saw the new Phoenix/Johansson movie Her, and I’m feeling particularly introspective.

I generally shy away from the dramatic genre.  When I actually sit down to watch one I often enjoy it, but until until I’m suitably drawn in I maintain a preference for a light comedy where I can zone out and laugh, or an action flick where I can imagine I’m rescuing Tom Cruise.

Her is funnier than I expected, which in itself says something.  There’s so many trailers these days that I watch almost as shorthand.  Oh wonderful, now I don’t have to see the movie.  A real time saver.  But I was surprised by this movie, which I find doesn’t often happen anymore.  I had no idea what would happen next.  What a groundbreaking concept!

So the funny got me through the first fifteen minutes without regret.  The story, the characters, the acting, and the artistic effects got me through the rest.

This movie is beautiful.  Colours play some intimate role that my overtly practical mind hasn’t been able to grasp. (Maybe I’ll sit straight up in bed at three am with all meaning perfectly clear.)  Long-held close-ups of inanimate objects evoke the sense of something still, something deep, something you’ll take away later and think about, which really, any movie claiming any kind of profundity should make you do.

The movie is set ever so slightly in the future.  My constant eye-out for fashion was rewarded by interesting, subtle shifts like a return of the high waist, flat-fronted men’s trouser of the late 19th century (I’m thinking Oscar Wilde here).  In the feminine wardrobe, a little bit of the sharp, geometric shapes we often associate with futuristic, though nothing blatant.

Throughout the movie, I kept thinking that the tag line could have (but shouldn’t have) been “what is love?”  Because that’s really what the movie explores.  How do you define love, and how does love define you?  Is love what everyone else thinks is acceptable, or just what you think? Does love require the physical to be real and – metaphorically – tangible? Is love the same for everyone, at the root of it?

Her doesn’t seek to answer these questions for viewers, it just poses them.  Different characters reactions to the unconventional relationship in the story outline the options, but don’t force them.  Each reaction is believable and understandable, and some viewers will lean toward one or another simply on account of human nature.

The question of “human” comes up as well.   What makes us human, and what separates the traditional human concept from the increasingly realistic simulations cropping up within our intensely technical world?

In a time where actual, physical, face to face interaction is rapidly being replaced by IMs and DMs and voice messaging, do our concepts of humans – and thusly human relationships – begin to change? Should they?  And if physical closeness in general is fading, mustn’t intimacy inevitably change as well?

So – what is love?  And if we do figure it out, for just us or universally, who’s to say it isn’t going to change with the next system upgrade?



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