Her is Spike Jonze’s impressively powerful masterpiece about humanity’s connection with technology and, more importantly, the perseverance and development of love. The movie centers on Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who writes handwritten letters for couples who want to express their love but potentially don’t understand how; he’s there to act as that connection. He’s around love on a daily basis and loved his wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara), before things fell apart. He’s deeply connected with technology as the whole world uses newly developed interfaces and more interactive operating systems. He downloads one and begins a relationship with Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson), which has its social stigmas. But some of his friends realize the happiness he’s found, including Amy (Amy Adams), a woman that sees the world much like he does. Theodore tries exploring other relationships, going on a blind date with a young, beautiful woman (Olivia Wilde), but doesn’t find the emotional connection he wanted. 

Theodore isn’t a perfect man, but he loves deeply. Phoenix gives him an effortless compassion and humanity that extends far past his imperfections. He’s one of the most talented, versatile actors working today; after delivering such a brilliant performance last year in The Master and following up with this (and The Immigrant on the horizon), he’s proving to be an exciting presence in film. Jonze’s screenplay bursts with energy and vivacity, providing a striking vision of a post-modern Los Angeles and how technology can affect our relationships in real life. Yet the film doesn’t fall into the trap of being simply about technology and extends to a more universally compelling and intelligent conclusion: that love can transform and become deeper and more refined through any type of emotional relationship. In this case, it’s with Samantha, and Johansson gives one of the year’s finest performances without ever appearing on screen. The movie’s breathtakingly shot and the score is wonderfully textured and nuanced by Arcade Fire. Spike Jonze’s Her is his best film to date and my favorite film of 2013.

Grade: ★★★★ (out of 5)

Written by Eric Forthun