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An interesting take on times yet to come...
on 22 February 2014
The opening of this 'love' story sets the scene for what will probably be our near-future. Theodore works as a professional letter writer, dictating virtual handwritten notes for people who don't want to / or can't write to people they love, themselves. It's a powerful opening for something the film carries on throughout its entirety: The farming out of emotions, or emotional responsibility, to a faceless service provider! Prophetic stuff...
The setting is not too many years from now. A time where our digital lifestyle is more fully formed. Take a look around most public places today, it's not hard to see how easy we are adopting digital devices as governors of our lifestyle in the way that Jonze is showing us. You might think it'll only effect the lonely or needy, but we're all heading towards seeing devices as 'friends'. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see this! Speech and prediction will certainly help this along.
Theodore is a broken man. A man unable to keep his marriage together, but hesitant to sign the divorce papers and move on with his life. He's a likeable, soft character who is successful in his work, but little else. He's shown as a gamer, which strengthens the idea that he's in-touch with virtual life and interaction. Games are his escape, his refuge.
Along comes 'OS', a new upgrade to his CPU. The OS is intelligent from the start. Theodore chooses a female gender, and is instantly impressed with the usability of his new assistant; mail gets indexed, messages analysed, appointments sorted, etc. Theodore is amazed at it all. Wouldn't we all be?
Jonze now goes on to build the OS's personality and reinforces the human cadence that Johansson is allowed to exude. The OS behaves, learns and interacts as a human would. The anthropomorphism allowed here is total. As Theodore retracts from the real-life he isn't comfortable with, he grows ever more engaged with the Samantha in his ear. But Samantha is learning, growing, feeling, needing, wanting...it's a turning point for them both!
Here is where I have an issue with the (understandable) direction that Jonze chooses for the characters. Whilst there are some profound, and at times awkward, scenarios in the film which are really interesting (real-life physicality and social interaction being the main ones) -- the way that Samantha is allowed to fully behave in a "human" way, to me, seems detrimental to the impact of the morality tale. It could have been a more impactful tale, if Samantha still retained a little machine-like personality (logic paths being 1/0, or a little less awareness of emotional reactions at times -- basically showing a glitch or two, here and there). I realise that his intention was to make you momentarily forget that this was a man-machine relationship, and I do understand why he does this, but I feel it would have been more jarring to see Theodore fall for Samantha, even though she sometimes behaved like the software / hardware she actually is meant to be. The end of the film sort of addresses this...but it's not impactful enough for me. The ending is, however, still very tastefully done though.
All-in-all, an entertaining and interesting film (if not a little too long). Also, beautifully shot in 4K. Well worth a viewing.
If you're looking for something else along these lines, I highly recommend the kindle book 'Sycamore'.