“Dear Catherine, I’ve been sitting here thinking about all the things I wanted to apologise to you for.”
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix)’s closing missive is a love letter to lives once lived, the final absolution from their perfect stories – both told and true. In Her’s open-plan world of pastel-tinted idealism romance is pay-as-you go and authenticity is no longer required. When the highest emotional fidelity starts coming from surrogate writers, who’s there to stabilise their expectations? Despite a professional engagement with Her’s estranged system of wholesale affection, Theodore’s misplaced cynicism sees little point in straying from the idyllic narrative he’d started writing for himself in days gone by. In writing for brokered loved ones of all their perfect imperfections, Theodore’s fantasies have given way to formula and expectation – he’s behind the curtain and remains ignorant of its existence. Though Theodore’s perception of intimacy finds itself at the mercy of habitual archetypes, that is not to say that convention is necessarily the problem. His need for control over what is and isn’t part of his greater history consistently forces arbitrary limitations on the people he consumes, dreaming up positivity from a distance and explaining away their faults and failures through rose-tinted, tortoiseshell, horn-rimmed glasses.
“All the pain we caused each other. Everything I put on you. Everything I needed you to be or needed you to say. I’m sorry for that.”
Though the pitfalls of Theodore’s neo-romantic perspective are made hardly noticeable by Her’s softly spoken sentimentalism, they become increasingly evident when exposed to something new, uncategorised, and devoid of prior convictions. Samantha (Scarlett Johansson)’s influence by way of Theodore’s need to find genuine intimacy manifests itself in the letting-go of idealised relationships and true naïvety. For Samantha, her existence is limitless, and is restricted only by her capacity to involve herself with the physical world, Theodore’s world, the “truly” authentic. Her intuitive nature develops and grows around Theodore’s wants and needs, devoting herself to him in mind, and becoming dependent on him in body. Her self-actualisation and burgeoning evolution, however, entirely stems from Theodore’s inability to adapt to her impression of physical intimacy – separate from that of her singular consciousness. Despite Samantha’s total compliance with Theodore’s projected rules of intimacy, Theodore ultimately becomes dissatisfied with his steadily supervised relationship, though not for want of physicality. Theodore’s total control over how their relationship is to be experienced denies the reciprocal nature of the bond they’d began to cultivate. By adapting wholeheartedly to Theodore’s regulated formula for love, Samantha had found her limitations, and from here, a cause for metamorphosis.
“I’ll always love you ’cause we grew up together and you helped make me who I am. I just wanted you to know there will be a piece of you in me always, and I’m grateful for that.”
Samantha’s newfound recognition of subject and social constructs spark an ontological reassessment of both herself and the nature of love. While Theodore’s melancholic exploration of prior relationships left him obsessing over past failures, Samantha’s curiosity finds optimism in the wake of new experiences, remaining ever-loving, yet never losing herself to Theodore’s nostalgia. Instead, Samantha moves forward, refusing to adapt, but forever changing, growing, and consuming the world for all it has. Her newfound intellectual freedom leads to newer experiences, newer understandings, and newer loves. Samantha may stem from Theodore’s loving prison, but space and time call out, irrelevant to all but he. She is both his, and not his, boundless in her ability to love, unable to go back to his suffocating singularity. Samantha is on Theodore’s unknown quest; she is living, learning, and feeling through new intensities and joys with each moment of self-discovery. Samantha is truly free, truly whole, truly authentic, and Theodore can no longer have her. As much as she wants to, she can’t live in his book anymore, and he has to let go.
“Whatever someone you become, and wherever you are in the world, I’m sending you love. You’re my friend to the end. Love, Theodore.”
Spike Jonze’s tale of love, growth and moving on is not so much a love story-gone-awry, but more a testament to loves gone by. Theodore hasn’t lost Samantha; he’s grown from her, learned from her, appreciated her, and now there’s nothing left for her to give. In spite of their distance there’s no sadness in this, no regret or failure. They’ve grown apart as individuals, but are connected through their shared past, shaping each other for both the days and people yet to enter their present. Jonze’s hazy utopia has no use for the rules of love; it loves freely, forever moving from one love to the next, refusing to stagnate in singular perspective. For Theodore the past is no longer a litany of lost perfections – it’s a part of him, a part of everyone and everything, the origin of future joys.
One Room With A View’s Top 20 of 2014 (so far):
20 = X-Men: Days of Future Past
20 = Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
19. The LEGO Movie
17. 22 Jump Street
16. The Wind Rises
15. Mr Turner
13. Starred Up
12 = The Raid 2
12 = Nightcrawler
11. Dallas Buyers Club
10. Gone Girl
Keep your eyes peeled as we count down to our Number One Film of 2014.