Her is the story of Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely man in the last stages of divorce. He still loves his soon-to-be ex-wife, Catherine (played by Rooney Mara) but she clearly does not love him, if she ever did. Theodore buys and installs a new operating system who is sentient, self-aware and names herself Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Theodore falls in love with Samantha but as their relationship develops Samantha grows in ways that neither could have predicted beforehand. Amy Adams rounds out the cast as Theodore’s friend in the midst of her own relationship failure.
One of the things that stands out is the use of the color red. Red in some form is featured prominently in just about every scene in the film, except for a few key scenes where its absence is conspicuous. The use of the color red is established early on in the opening opening shots. There was red glass behind Theodore and he had on a red shirt.
The most predominant use of red was in clothing. Theodore wore a lot of red items, mainly shirts. Even when he wasn’t wearing a red shirt, some of them had red in them, kind of a muted red. Amy Adams wore a red shirt towards the end. I think for the characters, red stands for love.
In some of the early establishing scenes when they showed the back story leading up to Theodore’s and Catherine’s (Rooney Mara) divorce, IIRC, Theodore had on a red shirt, but brown pants and a camel/khaki over shirt. I think this was meant to signify that he was still in love with his soon-to-be ex-wife, but there was a barrier to that love, namely her withdrawal and the subsequent divorce proceedings. The camel/khaki jacket was meant to represent that barrier. Of course, it could be that Catherine herself was a barrier to Theodore, it could be that she never loved Theodore at all. Or at least, she never loved him as much as he loved her.
Catherine’s character was interesting in that she mostly wore white, no red for sure. In one early scene she wore white pajamas in the early scenes with Theodore, and later a white blouse and black skirt when they met towards the end. I think for her the color white in the first scene represents death, most likely the death of her relationship with Theodore, which is possibly foreshadowing. In the earlier scenes she’s in white and Theodore has a red shirt on and white boxers. I think this is meant to show that Theodore always did love her more than she loved him. He even said later that Catherine was brought up in a family where nothing was ever good enough. I think the later scene when they met to sign the divorce papers and for Theodore to reveal to her that he was in love with Samantha, the white blouse signified the death of his relationship with Catherine. White is the color associated with death and mourning in Japan. The black skirt (along with the white blouse) signified her black and white thinking which lead to their divorce. The black skirt could also represent death as well.
I do think that the main meaning of the use of red in the film is love, though. He was portrayed as a kind, loving man, albeit very lonely. His soon-to-be-ex could not return that love. Samantha could, but she grew in ways that neither of them could comprehend. I thought it was interesting that Theodore was stuck in the pair bonding paradigm, one woman, one man. I think it hurt him to realize that Samantha could love more than one entity at a time (over 600). But ultimately, he realized that loving more than one made her love him even more. This was in contrast to Theodore’s relationship with Catherine. It seems to me that Theodore outgrew Catherine.
Her is a very thoughtful, moving film. It is beautifully filmed and the acting is well done. It is not an action film, however. It is an exploration of love, loss, and loneliness. Most of the the film reveals these themes through dialog between the characters.
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Worth a look if you like moving films which explore the nature of love in our modern age and the possibility of loving an artificially intelligent being.
Skip it if you like more traditional romcoms or action films.