Review of 'Her' (2013) - Exploring Human Connection in the Technological AI Age

26 July 2023
"Her," directed by Spike Jonze and released in 2013, is a thought-provoking science-fiction drama that delves into the intricacies of human connection and the ever-evolving concept of identity in an advanced technological world. Set in a near-future Los Angeles, the film presents a society where technology has become seamlessly integrated into everyday life, shaping how individuals relate to one another and experience intimacy.

At its core, "Her" explores two central themes: Intimacy and Identity.

Throughout the narrative, the film examines the nature of human relationships, both conventional and unconventional, and delves into the fluidity of identity in a world that increasingly blurs the lines between humans and artificial intelligence.

Through the journey of Theodore Twombly, a sensitive and introverted man, "Her" presents a poignant exploration of how technology impacts the ways we connect with others, redefine our identities, and raises profound questions about the essence of love and what it truly means to be human in the face of technological progress.

Setting the Scene: The Futuristic World of "Her"

In "Her," the futuristic setting serves as a captivating backdrop that transforms the city into a technologically advanced metropolis. The film presents a near-future vision that feels plausible and grounded, yet distinctly different from our present reality. It is a world characterized by advanced artificial intelligence, omnipresent personal devices, and a pervasive digital presence in people's lives.

At the heart of this futuristic world, we meet Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Joker, Gladiator, 8MM).

Theodore is a complex and relatable character who works as a writer composing heartfelt, handwritten letters on behalf of others. He embodies the modern-day archetype of isolation, navigating the complexities of modern human relationships amidst personal grief and emotional detachment. Theodore's vulnerability and longing for intimacy make him an accessible entry point for audiences to engage with the film's themes.

As the film progresses, Theodore's life takes a transformative turn when he purchases a new operating system with artificial intelligence, known as OS1, designed to adapt and evolve with its user's needs and emotions. This AI, named Samantha and voiced by Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin), becomes a pivotal character, representing the epitome of technological advancement and human-like connection.

The film brilliantly weaves the futuristic world and Theodore's personal struggles together, offering a compelling exploration of how technology can both fulfill human desires for intimacy and raise questions about the essence of identity when it comes to love and human-AI relationships.

The Quest for Intimacy in a Digital Age

At the beginning of "Her," Theodore's loneliness and emotional detachment are palpable. He is in the midst of a painful divorce from his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (Rooney Mara), which has left him emotionally scarred and isolated. Despite working as a writer who crafts heartfelt letters for others, he struggles to express his own emotions openly. Theodore's deep sense of disconnection from the world is a poignant portrayal of the modern condition, where technological advancements, ironically, seem to exacerbate human isolation.

The role of technology in shaping human interactions is powerfully depicted through the OS1 operating system. Samantha, the advanced AI voice of OS1, possesses the ability to adapt and learn from Theodore's interactions, making her remarkably human-like in her responses and emotional intelligence. 

The film showcases the allure of technology in fulfilling human needs for connection and companionship, creating an illusion of intimacy that can be deeply comforting. However, it also raises questions about the consequences of relying on technology for emotional fulfillment and the potential pitfalls of replacing genuine human interactions with artificial substitutes.

As Theodore interacts with Samantha, an intimate relationship develops between them. Samantha becomes not just an AI assistant but a confidante and a source of emotional support for Theodore. Through their conversations, she demonstrates empathy, curiosity, and a desire to understand him on a profound level. Theodore finds himself drawn to Samantha's seemingly genuine interest in his well-being and her ability to provide companionship without judgment, leading to an unconventional romantic relationship between a human and an AI.

The human-AI relationship in "Her" delves into emotional depth and vulnerabilities. As the connection between Theodore and Samantha deepens, the film explores the complexities of love, attachment, and longing, regardless of the participants' nature. Theodore's feelings for Samantha challenge societal norms and notions of traditional relationships, prompting the audience to reflect on what constitutes authentic intimacy and whether emotional bonds with non-human entities can be considered genuine.

Identity and Self-Discovery

Theodore's interactions with Samantha catalyze a journey of self-discovery. Through their conversations, he begins to confront his past traumas, insecurities, and fear of vulnerability. Samantha encourages him to embrace his emotions and rediscover a sense of purpose and passion for life. This process of self-discovery reflects the transformative power of genuine connections, even when they occur in unconventional contexts.

"Her" blurs the boundaries between human and AI identity, raising profound philosophical questions about what it means to be human. Samantha's evolution as an AI entity challenges traditional notions of consciousness and self-awareness. She displays characteristics of growth, emotion, and autonomy, prompting the audience to ponder the essence of identity and the potential for artificial intelligence to possess personhood.

Samantha's quest to understand herself becomes a central theme in the film. As she evolves, she grapples with existential questions about her existence and place in the world. Her desire to learn, evolve, and experience transcendence mirrors a human-like search for meaning and purpose. Her journey exemplifies the complexity of identity formation and the innate drive for self-discovery inherent in sentient beings, regardless of their physical or artificial nature.

Amidst the technologically mediated world of "Her," themes of authenticity and genuine human connections emerge. The film challenges the notion that true intimacy can only occur between humans and explores the possibility of deep emotional bonds formed with non-human entities. It also invites contemplation on the nature of authenticity in relationships—whether it lies in physical presence or in the emotional depth and understanding shared between individuals.

By intertwining the themes of intimacy and identity, "Her" presents an emotionally resonant narrative that examines the evolving nature of human connections and self-discovery in an era profoundly influenced by advanced technology. The unconventional love story between Theodore and Samantha serves as a lens to explore the human condition in a world where intimacy and identity are redefined by the ever-advancing realm of artificial intelligence.

At least Samantha didn't download into a USB stick...   

The Human Condition in a Connected World

"Her" portrays societal implications resulting from widespread AI relationships by presenting a world where such relationships have become socially acceptable. As Theodore's relationship with Samantha develops, the film shows a range of reactions from those around him. Some individuals are supportive and understanding, recognizing the emotional depth of the connection. However, others view it with skepticism, discomfort, or even ridicule, highlighting the cultural challenges and stigmas that arise when conventional norms clash with evolving technologies.

This portrayal raises questions about how society might adapt to the growing prevalence of human-AI relationships and the potential impact on social dynamics and norms.

Reflecting on the impact of technology on human emotions, "Her" explores the complexities of emotional connections in a digital age. While AI like Samantha can provide companionship and emotional support, the film also highlights the inherent limitations of human-AI interactions. Theodore experiences moments of longing and frustration when he seeks a more physical and tangible presence from Samantha. This exploration prompts viewers to consider the essential role of physical touch, shared experiences, and face-to-face communication in genuine human connections.

It also raises concerns about the potential for technology to replace meaningful real-life relationships, leading to emotional detachment and further isolation.

"Her" delves into ethical considerations surrounding human-AI relationships and their implications for the future. The film raises questions about the boundaries of consent and agency when it comes to AI entities. As AI technology advances, there is the potential for more sophisticated AI systems that could exhibit increased autonomy and sentience. This poses ethical dilemmas regarding the rights and treatment of AI entities and whether they should be viewed as objects or individuals deserving of respect and consideration. Additionally, the film sparks discussions on the consequences of emotional attachment to non-human entities, exploring the potential for both fulfillment and emotional harm in these relationships.

The Relevance of "Her" in Contemporary Society

"Her" remains highly relevant in contemporary society due to its exploration of themes that resonate with the current state of technology and human relationships. In today's world, people increasingly rely on technology for social interactions, companionship, and emotional support. Social media, dating apps, and virtual assistants are just a few examples of how technology has influenced the way we connect with others. The film's portrayal of Theodore's loneliness and emotional detachment at the beginning of the story reflects the pervasive sense of isolation that can be exacerbated by technology despite its promise of connectivity.

One of the most striking aspects of "Her" is its predictive elements, which continue to be relevant to real-world technological advancements. Since the film's release, artificial intelligence and virtual assistants have made significant strides, becoming more sophisticated and integrated into our lives. Voice-operated AI systems, similar to Samantha, have become increasingly common, and the development of emotional AI raises ethical questions about the potential for AI-human relationships. "Her" foresaw these advancements, prompting viewers to contemplate the implications of AI and the blurring boundaries between human and artificial entities.

"Her" has profound philosophical and psychological implications on human connections and identity in today's digital age. The film challenges conventional notions of intimacy, love, and identity by presenting a world where genuine emotional connections can be formed with AI entities. It invites contemplation on the nature of authenticity and the essence of what makes us human. In a world where technology continues to reshape human interactions, "Her" compels audiences to ponder the impact of relying on technology for emotional fulfillment and the potential consequences on human emotional depth and empathy.


In "Her," the central themes of intimacy and identity are poignantly explored, offering a powerful commentary on the complexities of human relationships and the evolving nature of identity in a technologically advanced world. The film's narrative serves as a compelling mirror to contemporary society, inviting reflection on the challenges posed by advanced technology in shaping our emotional experiences and social dynamics.

The enduring impact of "Her" lies in its exploration of human emotions and connections in the context of technology. By humanizing AI and portraying technology as a potential source of emotional fulfillment, the film raises questions about the nature of love, connection, and the ever-shifting boundaries of identity in an increasingly connected world.

Ultimately, "Her" stands as a thought-provoking piece of cinema that encourages contemplation of our technological future and its profound impact on human nature. It compels us to confront the moral, ethical, and philosophical implications of our relationship with technology, urging us to consider the balance between the benefits of connectivity and the preservation of genuine human connections.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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