Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on June 2014

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Most of the movies we’ve seen on the subject of artificial intelligence, starting probably with HAL 9000 in 2001, A Space Odyssey and continuing to Johnny Depp’s Transcendence, tend to focus on machine sentience going awry, often disastrously. But fabulist Spike Jonze, who directed Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and is doing his own writing this time, here explores without judging how such technology might be used in the near future in our increasingly plugged-in yet disconnected society. The story is about an introverted man (a terrifically convincing Joaquin Phoenix) who downloads what is called a “personal OS” that speaks in the breathless tones of an unseen Scarlett Johansson. They pal around; get to know each other. And he falls in love. She draws him out of himself, and he begins to appreciate the world around him. This could have gone in so many wrong directions, from glib, cheap-shot rom-com to preposterous thriller. But Jonze plays it straight. It’s audacious, yes, but also deeply sincere and emotionally plausible. This meditation on what it is to be human is modest in scale, approachable and never less than compelling. Can machines think? Maybe. But can people still feel? Japanese title: Her: Sekai de Hitotsu no Kanojo. (120 min)