Midway through Spike Jonze’s film Her, two couples are on a double date at a beach in Southern California. The guys discuss a surprise that one of them has in store for his girlfriend, and the girlfriends giggle about the strange predilections of their men. The only odd thing here is that one of these girlfriends is present only as a voice on a smartphone: she is not a human but an artificially intelligent operating system that has achieved autonomous sentience and has fallen into a mutual romantic relationship with her “user,” Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix).
The film’s great achievement is in making the computer-human love affair seem natural and in realistically charting the movement from dependence on technology to full-blown emotional attachment.
In this “near future” LA, Theo and everyone around him are tethered to their earbuds, receiving constant streams of data or playing virtual games. Real life is seamlessly permeated with digital life. The “romance” begins when Theo installs his new operating system and meets Samantha—the name the system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) takes for itself.