Her captures the complexity of human emotion through romance, loss, technology

Her released on December 18, 2013. At the 86th Academy Awards, Her received five nominations, including Best Picture, and won the award for Best Original Screenplay.

Photo Credit: Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures under Creative Commons Licence

Her released on December 18, 2013. At the 86th Academy Awards, Her received five nominations, including Best Picture, and won the award for Best Original Screenplay.

By: Joe Sanfilippo

Her follows a lonely everyday man named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) whose job is to pen notes and letters. The film takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles where everyone seems plagued by technology.

Theodore, battling a divorce seeks love in a big, lost world. His deep sadness causes him to develop a relationship with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), his AI virtual assistant.


Her tackles themes of loss, longing, and idealism. Ironically, the film uses bright colors to convey its themes of sadness. Its use of soft colors and lighting provides a dreamlike aesthetic. Because of its warmer colors, Her pulls viewers in through a romantic lens.

Director Spike Jonze also creates long shots that show Theodore walking alone in fully populated cities. This further enhances the movie’s themes of loneliness and isolation. As Theodore and Samantha talk, the backdrop of the city can normally be seen. The city represents an almost invisible Samantha. Theodore wants it, but he has a hard time accessing it.

Themes and symbolism

One of Her’s biggest themes is disconnection. In the first two minutes of the film alone, we get a close-up of Theodore reading a letter out loud. As the camera pans out, the viewer notices it’s not a personal letter. Theodore works at a company that writes letters for other people. In fact, the other employees aren’t conversing with each other either. As a result of these observations, everyone seems distant.

Theodore’s acquaintances also pick up on his loneliness throughout the film. He feels this way because of his upcoming divorce from his wife Catherine. His inability to function and only focus on what’s outside himself keeps him from being in tune with his feelings. As Theodore walks into the city, the audience will notice he’s in focus but the city isn’t. This further highlights the theme of disconnection.

The city starts to become in focus after Theodore goes out with Samantha. But, this is tricking him. Through Samantha, Theodore is fooling himself. Computers don’t have feelings and you don’t have to fully feel responsible for them. In fact, they’re there to take care of you. At the end of the film, when all the AIs have developed feelings of their own and leave, it reflects a change in Theodore.

Connection and technology

He notices the isolation he feels in his life once he’s disconnected from Samantha, therefore he finally feels his emotions. The film doesn’t hide away from showcasing the truth behind intimacy. A connection can grow or disappear, only for it to come back. Her raises the question, is technology a suitable way to connect? Even though Samantha leaves, Theodore starts to realize his worth and becomes emotionally open.

Are humans like computers that perform functions? Samantha is human-like. She has a soothing voice, but her job is to perform a task. Over the years technology has advanced, and people have adapted to those changes. Its change is dramatic and humans haven’t fully realized the growth or decline it can lead to.