Spike Jonze’s Her, a sweet, sad, poetic meditation on finding love in our age of hyper-connectivity and emotional distance, is his most fully realized film yet. It's the first original screenplay penned by the idiosyncratic director, so it may also be the most personal of his four pictures. But in fashioning this deceptively small-scale movie, s has captured the zeitgeist of the current millennium better than any filmmaker so far. On the surface, the premise sounds as highfalutin as either of the films Jonze is best known for: the wonderfully inventive Being John Malkovich and the insufferably labored Adaptation, but Her comes by its conceptual grandeur with far more grace and simplicity than either of those pictures. In fact, the plot, setting and subtext are so delicate that I hesitate to include even my usual threadbare story summation. I never want to know anything in advance about any film, but I consider myself especially lucky to have seen Her months before its release, when I knew nothing about it besides who directed and played the lead role. Seeing the spoiler-rich trailer or glancing at any of the glowing reviews I’ve since read would have greatly diminished, or every destroyed, the joy of discovery I experienced watching this film. 

Technically, Her is a sci-fi/fantasy film, but it's set in a future so near that it could be mistaken for present-day reality. Jonze adorns the world of his movie with only the subtlest of futuristic touches, any of which could easily be mistaken for modern-day inventions we just don’t know about yet. Similarly, the character relationships come across as authentically contemporary and as a prediction of things to come. Her plays like light and breezy comedy despite its melancholy subjects: loneliness, heartbreak, and the desire for intimacy, coupled with the fear of forming interdependent bonds with others. The film possesses a sincerity that has all but disappeared from serious cinema during the past two decades, and it avoids the deconstructionist games that defined Jonze’s first two movies (both of which were written by the self-consciously clever Charlie Kaufman). There are not layers upon layers of profound insights to be uncovered through repeat viewings because Her’s story and subtext are virtually synonymous--which is one reason I fear that those who know too much going in may find it lacking. Jonze has carefully polished this gem of a movie, rendering it free of extraneous ideas and distracting details, but at its core are thought-provoking questions that lead to lyrical reflections.

Directed by Spike Jonze
Produced by Megan Ellison and Vincent Landay

Written by Spike Jonze

With: Joaquin Phoenix, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Portia Doubleday, Matt Letscher, Sam Jaeger, Cassandra Starr, and the voice of Scarlett Johansson

Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Editing: Eric Zumbrunnen
Music: Arcade Fire

Runtime: 120 min
Release Date: 10 January 2014
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1