Scarlett Johansson’s character “feels even more brilliantly written than any other”
It may not come across as your conventional romantic drama when one half of the relationship is in the shape of an earpiece and a portable gadget, sometimes seeing the world through the other’s shirt pocket. But in only his fourth feature film, visionary director Spike Jonze delves into the internal frustration and tragic mindset of the human mind, reminiscent in his works of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, with this self penned film that questions what constitutes an affectionate and meaningful relationship.
Set in the near future, writing styled love letters for a living, newly divorced Theodore (played by Joaquin Pheonix) comes across a self intuitive computer system named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) to combat his loneliness. Able to construct a matching personality over time, Theodore begins to fall for Samantha as she appears to be the most perfect match of his life, but once constraints and social themes arise, their bond together becomes duly tested.
In style, this feels very much closer to Lost In Translation, not just due to being directed by Jonze’s former wife and the presence of Scarlett Johansson, but it’s the supposed sterile and idyllic way the film is shot. Similarly, almost becoming a heavenly backdrop for a love story that just can’t play out forever, but at least capturing a warm appealing setting whilst we enjoy our characters time in the sun. Allowing you to also buy into this not too distant imagined future of wire-free technical advancement and accepted traits that the world simply accepts that heightens that aspect of idealism.
As for our story, it ventures into the many implications of forming a bond with something that effectively doesn’t exist. How to partake in physical love, accepting your ideal partner in life comes from nothing more than a computer screen, even going from failed marriage to a new form of bonding, all are expectedly raised. But even before you raise eyebrows at its premise, the film guides you and eases into the world of our protagonist, to the point you sympathise and begin to notice flaws that’s inevitable when you suddenly care about that special person.
Joaquin Phoenix is great, down plays his performance and allows the story of his character of Theodore to play out naturally. It’s almost difficult to portray but you feel the weight of the world are on his face and shoulders without it resorting to being soppy and aggravating. Even more terrific is Scarlett Johansson as Samantha, even though it’s just a voice performance you feel the warmth, sincerity and naivety in every word she delivers and her character feels even more brilliantly written than any other.
It may appear too warm and sweet for some. But once your caught up in the story, there’s no doubting Spike Jonze has made an intelligent, timely and in some ways tragic love story.