Theodore, the protagonist in the futuristic film, Her, is a depressed and anti-social man who makes his living by writing ‘sentimental’ letters for various customers via a company called Beautiful Handwritten Letters. He creates birthday cards from grandparents to their grandchildren, love letters from wives to their husbands, and everything in between. It is somewhat ironic that Theodore, a lonely divorcee, works in this field. He, who is no longer in a loving married relationship and who has distanced himself from his friends is responsible for simulating highly personal and affectionate messages. Theodore seems to enjoy his work however, as it allows him to escape from his own tragedy of a personal life. The company name, Beautiful Handwritten Letters, is ironic as well considering the letters produced are not even handwritten, but rather generated by a computer. This demonstrates how people living in the futuristic world in which the movie takes place have become so removed from all things personal and instead focused on efficiency and practicality. The purpose of this movie is to warn viewers that as technology becomes more and more advanced, to not lose sight of what really matters – personal and emotional interactions with other human beings.
I believe that the intended reaction of the “handwritten” letters is to make the viewer uncomfortable and annoyed. Her argues that technology can inhibit human experiences, and the inclusion of the forged letters in the film is another example of this, even though they are not produced entirely by technology. Paying someone to write a letter signed by you is a service that could streamline your life and make you more efficient – similar to technology. Though some would argue that receiving a letter written by a stranger would feel disingenuous, I believe that it truly is the thought that counts. It is likely that Beautiful Handwritten Letters’ customers actually care about those who they are sending letters and mean everything said in them (even though they didn’t formulate the text). If this were not the case they wouldn’t put in the effort to acquire and pay a letter writer. As the world advances, trade and technology becomes more prominent and people chose to specialize and use outside resources to their advantage. Those who do not have the time or skills to cook order takeout or delivery. Those who lack advanced mathematic capabilities use calculators and/or hire accountants. Is hiring someone to relay your emotions through a letter really that much different? While this helps people become more efficient, it also makes them more robotic. What makes humans human is the fact that they have strengths and weaknesses, intelligent and creative thoughts, and emotions. By only focusing on one’s strengths and either hiring others or relying on technology to account for one’s weaknesses, people become less human and more like machines because little to no critical thinking or creativity is involved. It is important to find a balance between making your life easier and making your life worthwhile.
Her. Dir. Spike Jonze. Perf. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson. Annapurna Pictures,2013. Film