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Naturally, he falls hard for her. And the believability of their romance is perhaps the film's most astounding and disturbing achievement.

Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her'Image: Warner Bros.

Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her'

The provocative genius of Her is that its vision of romantic love—where one's digital avatar or OS reflektor is more compelling than any flesh-and-blood other—is a completely plausible progression from our present iWorld. In our selfie-obsessed, porn-saturated, me-centric culture, it's not hard to envision a future where Narcissus is the prevailing mythology of love.

As ideal as Samantha may seem for Theodore, their fairy tale romance has its challenges. For one, Samantha's capacity for knowledge far exceeds Theodore's. She is everything to him, but for her, "love" with any human is but a pinprick of the infinite expanse she can know. Other OS1s (such as the recreated consciousness of 1960s Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts) are more adequate conversation partners for her.

Samantha is decidedly god-like—nearly omniscient and omnipresent (at one point she reveals to Theodore that she's "talking" with 8,316 humans at the same time)—which makes her, finally, a mismatch for feeble-minded Theodore.

And then there's the question of embodiment. Can someone develop intimacy with a being who talks, laughs, nurtures, and knows us, but isn't with us in the flesh? Is bodily presence necessary to form our deepest bonds?

Jonze explores these questions in a few ways. One of them is through a trio of nontraditional "sex" scenes—a motif that will be (rightly) uncomfortable for many viewers. But it's essential because of how it expands the narrative and the film's themes. In a film about human intimacy and the question of embodiment, sex is inescapable.

The world of Her is fundamentally uncomfortable with physical touch. Almost all bodily interaction in the film is awkward. French kissing is seen as gross. Male friends don't know how to pat each other on the shoulder. They've grown up in a world where everything—including sex—is mediated, digital, disembodied. The private fantasy is more comfortable than the vulnerable reality, and thus preferable.

Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her'Image: Warner Bros.

Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her'

Jonze smartly shows that in a context where anonymity reigns and porn, phone, and chat sex are prevalent, it's easy to make the jump to human/OS sex. But there's still a deeply troubling absence when sex is divorced from the physical and relegated to the cerebral/imaginary (to say nothing of its disconnection from commitment). Jonze and his actors capture this brilliantly, and tastefully, underscoring the complexity of connection in the digital age while landing pretty firmly in the "embodiment is good" camp.

Which brings us back to Her as a film about incarnation (if not the Incarnation). In a sense, Samantha is a "god" who takes up tiny form: a pocket sized phone with a red camera "eye" (nodding to Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey). She assumes some qualities of humanity. Some, but not all: limitation, for example, and flesh—breakable, huggable, crucifiable flesh.

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