Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a “sad, mopey” letter writer who’s going through a divorce. While he’s feeling lonely and vulnerable, he buys a new operating system for his computer and smartphone that uses artificial intelligence and that basically takes the form of a virtual person: Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson). He instantly feels like he can truly relate to her and they become friends, and then more than that…

Which brings up all these existential questions about the nature of being and about our relationship with technology. We already have such a close bond with our computers, smartphones and whatnot that, if they were to take on this more personal and intimate form like in the film, it does feel like you could ultimately connect with them on a deeper level. We all feel a little lonely sometimes and we use our devices to reach out into the world via social networks, but what if the device itself became the thing we reached out to?

Set in the near future, “her” is technically a science-fiction film, what with all the technology that’s not quite there yet, but it seems all too possible that it’ll be here soon enough. As written and directed by Spike Jonze, it’s an insightful and sensitive picture not unlike “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” that uses a technological metaphor to explore the way relationships work.

Featuring a moody, minimalistic but effective score by Arcade Fire, “her” is a somewhat melancholy piece that makes us ask ourselves if our own feelings are real or programmed and whether our past is “just a story we tell ourselves”…

In the lead, Joaquin Phoenix is endlessly endearing and relatable, and he develops genuine chemistry with Scarlett Johannson,  who seems so lively and funny and complex even though we’re only hearing her voice. As Theodore’s ex-wife, Rooney Mara also conveys a lot even though, in her case, she almost only appears in dialogue-free flashbacks. And Amy Adams makes a strong impression as well as a friend of Theodore’s character who also is in a relationship of sorts with an operating system.

Speaking of which, it’s interesting the way the premise – man falls in love with an OS – tends to be routinely accepted by people in the film, even though at the same time, it’s obviously a bit crazy. Yet they accept it and so do we. If only for that, “her” is clearly something special.