In the movie Her, the main character has a job that perfectly fits the futuristic world the film is set in: writing “personal handwritten” letters using a computer to match his handwriting to that of his client. The technology that allows Theodore to perform at this job, needless to say, is extremely advanced. In fact, technology in the film’s universe has progressed to the point where operating systems themselves have become self aware, presenting emotions and even possessing the ability to fall in love. Specifically, Her follows the story of Theodore and his OS Samantha, exploring the intricacies of love through the lens of their human-computer emotional entanglement. Theodore’s unique job not only provides insight to how he approaches relationships, but also represents a brilliant social commentary on the state of human emotional and relationship development.
Much of Theodore’s work involves writing love poetry to be sent to others. Through his intricate verse, we gain sight into his broken heart, which was hurt in a recent divorce. We realize that he is a hopeless romantic, just looking for someone who could appreciate the wonder and adventure of the world with. He appreciates the little intricacies of every relationship and understands what makes each one special, as demonstrated by his inclusion of small personal traits into his poems like crooked teeth or weird smiles. It is said that poetry is the quickest way to the heart, so with Theodore’s profession revolving around this literary art, it is no wonder that it helps the viewer get to understand Theodore more comprehensively than they would without his poetry.
Beautiful Handwritten Letters also serves as insight into our society’s current path of development with regards to how we interact with one another. The concept of an outside individual writing deep, personal, and loving letters to one or both parties involved in a relationship makes me feel very uncomfortable. To me, a romantic relationship contains two people, that’s it. Involving another person, especially when they try to convey the feelings of another member of the relationship for them, taints the entire point of being in a relationship. Being committed to someone is a big deal; it dictates getting to know everything about them through common experiences, which then garner feelings for one another. A third party could not possibly understand the emotions of the individuals in the relationship without being somewhat generic, hence ruining the originality of the connection between the two individuals.
With our society’s trend to outsource every possible task that can be outsourced, I feel that a company like Beautiful Handwritten Letters is not very far off, and that worries me. Companies like these would lead to the de-personalization of our relationships. How would we know if we got a heartwarming letter full of emotion that it was really our significant other, not a Theodore sitting in an office somewhere? Relationships will be full of distrust and false feelings. Is that really the kind of superficial love that we would want? Her is not only a great romance exploring the complexity of love, but it serves as a way to remind us, through Theodore’s job, how special love between TWO people is. If we don’t turn off our current path, one day you might receive a letter from your significant other written by Beautiful Handwritten Letters.
Her. Dir. Spike Jonze. Perf. Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. Annapurna Pictures, 2013. DVD.