Film Review: ‘Her’ – A Modern Memorial to Polyamory

By Aayudh Pramanik

In my opinion, Raymond Carver’s question “What do we talk about when we talk about love?” may have been answered by this terrific rendition of polyamory sans stereotypes by Spike Jonz’s Golden Globe winning ‘Her’. The film stars Oscar awardee Joaquin Phoenix- who received his much deserved Oscar for his tour de force in his portrayal of a rather well known villain in Hollywood, The Joker – as Theodore Twombly. Unparalleled in the field of versatility, Scarlett Johansson also appears in the film as the voice of Samantha who, it could be argued, may just have stolen the thunder of the protagonist with her impeccable voice acting. It’s safe to say she successfully brought a piece of artificial intelligence to life with her performance, a feat which even the greatest scientists of this age haven’t been able to achieve. The film also features Rooney Mara as Catherine, the to-be ex-wife of Theodore and Amy Adams as Amy, Theodore’s best friend.

The film is entirely in english and runs for a total duration of two hours and six minutes. It has received the ‘Academy Award for Writing’, ‘Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay’, ‘Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Original Screenplay’ among others.

The plot of the film, or the plot that is usually highlighted is the leitmotif of AI developing human emotions such as anger, love, happiness, guilt, etc. and the movie revolving around that. Theodore Twombly, a quiet, reserved writer, discovers a new AI which could completely automate his work and help him write and buys it for himself. He soon discovers the AI’s ability to learn from every single task it would perform and adapt to human behaviour. The plot of the story starts building towards a breathtaking crescendo of plot lines from here onwards, each one providing a smooth segue into the next and hence unfolds their romance as two human beings deeply connected to each other without ever requiring either of their corporeal presence. They learn about each other, spend time professionally as much as intimately and ultimately end up falling in the very intoxicating yet beautiful ravines of love.

However, there is a theme pervasive in the movie- Polyamory – that most surprisingly overlook, perhaps because of its sheer unconventionality. There is a quote from the movie, I will never forget, “The heart is not like a box that gets filled up. It expands the more you love.” from Samantha. She says this when she breaks the news to Theodore that she had learnt so much that she was capable of conversing with several other AIs in the thousands as she spoke to him simultaneously. In fact, she was doing it as she broke the news to him. She said that she was in love with several others, but her love for Theodore was not any less, rather far from it. Her love for him had increased manifold as she learnt to love and care more. It got me thinking, that makes so much sense! Who ever said it was not possible to love more than one person at a time and why do we force ourselves to do so? Why do we force ourselves into boxes when we can be as infinite as Samantha as human beings? Why should we clip our wings when we know we can attain unimaginable heights? This movie revolutionized my idea of love and the staggering amount we can actually unlock within that sphere of our lives. The insight is ingenious.

This, coupled with the music feature of the film, The Moon Song, packs it all together perfectly into the greatest perception of love of age. The opening lines from the song will convince you of its aptness, “I’m lying on the moon/ My dear, I’ll be there soon/ It’s a quiet and starry place/ Time’s we’re swallowed up in space/ We’re here a million miles away.” If you watch the film, I’m sorry in advance because I know for a fact that the ending will simply break you, but also leave a bittersweet, sour aftertaste in its wake; just like when you are sad you finished your cup of steaming hot chocolate but savor the tangy aftertaste nonetheless.