A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) who writes personal letters for other people (they can’t say what they want to say themselves) forms a wondrous bond with his Operating System (voiced by Scarlett Johansson)—which (who?) becomes more and more sentient. Spike Jonze’s futuristic comedy is an exquisite meditation on love, friendship, human connection, and the singularity that might enlarge (or possibly contract) our definition of what that connection means. In the first hour, there’s a vein of satire—of the supreme silliness and pathos of a world in which people turn increasingly to disembodied voices for solace, friendship, sex. (Can you really “date” an OS?) But the satire yields to a sort of transcendental romanticism that leaves you both heartbroken and full of wonder. This is like no other movie—although it’s clearly a descendant of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (Is Charlie Kaufman the new high priest—the William Gibson—of futuristic psychodrama?)
Her is not just the best film in years, it has the best performance of 2013 by a cosmic margin. Perhaps no actor but Phoenix could express emotions that are so painfully unformed. He’s not just unafraid of regressing, of getting lost—he lives for it.