Spike Jonze delivers a clever and sombre meditation on inner lives tainted by technology in this bittersweet tale of computer love.
Given that we have long made peace with our online addiction, this strange and beautiful sci-fi love story from Spike Jonze is long overdue and scarily plausible.
What happens when our need for immediate gratification and blaring attention-seeking/communication turns to love? Yup, that blinking, all-powerful slice of tech in your hand might just fancy you back you know?
I don't mean the rinky-dinky physical appeal of Apple hardware either. In near-future LA, romance is as downloadable, accessible, and addictive as a game of flappy birds. The world's first interactive and omnipresent online Operating Systems - OSes - have become available and they will not only organise your constantly pinging inbox, but maybe reciprocate your amorous advances.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely, newly-single writer of old-fashioned love letters for couples he will never meet in a world where the written word has become almost a curious footnote to history. He fritters his nights away alone in his apartment, playing VR games and aching for his ex-wife Catherine, a fellow writer of real, physical books with pages and stuff, who is played with a prickly impatience by Rooney Mara.
Theodore wanders through his detached life in a daze of sombre existentialism and when he downloads the new OS, it is on a whim. However, when the velvety tones of Samantha, as voiced by the velvety-toned Scarlett Johannsen, purr from his mobile and desktop, he is immediately intrigued.
It is love at first soundbyte and man and OS quickly and madly progress through all the wonderful stages of romance - bashful joshing, cautious compliments, empathy, jealousy, doubt and, of course, that embarrassing moment when a surrogate lover arrives at your door, applies a miniature camera to her philtrum, plugs into your beloved OS, and attempts to consummate your online-only romance.
Jonze's film is a sad and touching story of loneliness and our corrosive dependency on technology. As Theodore, Phoenix captures the thoughts and actions of the modern commitment-phobe brilliantly. He's a nice, downbeat bloke, a puppy dog really, who maybe needs some firm but fair advice from an alpha male - say, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Johannson's Samantha manages to steal several scenes without actually appearing on-screen at all.
This is easily Jonze's best movie since Being John Malkovich. It has a real unfussy, melancholic way about it which, thankfully, never labours the hackneyed irony of how disconnected we are in our connected world.
It merely shrugs and hints that happiness does not lie within; it's waiting for you online.