We all know how romantic films unfold. Boy is at the end of his rope, dealing with a difficult break up. Boy meets girl. Suddenly they fall head over heels in love, and the girl is 10 times better than the ex. They have ups, they have downs, but ultimately true love prevails. Spike Jonze’s Her is no different in terms of narrative, apart from the unique twist that the girl that our leading man falls in love with is an operating system.
Set in the not too distant future, the world’s first intelligent operating system becomes available on the market, which recently heartbroken Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), installs to help organise his life and offer a bit of much needed company after his break up with his long term partner, Catherine (Rooney Mara). The operating system, which chooses its own name as Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), is essentially a friendlier, funnier and more seductive version of Siri, and it’s not long before Theodore finds himself starting a relationship with his new best friend.
What Her does brilliantly, which any other writer or director could have gotten so wrong, is it keeps the love story at the core of its story. A romantic tale of two people falling in love is the main focus throughout, with the only difference between this film and other love stories being the fact that one of them is an OS. Shots of people displaying their outrage at our relationship with technology, news anchors hosting debates, or a sub plot of someone on a mission to take down the OS’s would have made this film something different, and something with Jonze is clever enough to keep the focus of the film away from.
That’s not to say you’re not challenged to think about our relationship with technology however, and to where we’re heading in the future. If Her had been released 5-10 years ago we certainly may be more alarmed at the future depicted on screen, instead we get shots of city centres where everyone is glued to their phones and leading their lives through technology: something which is not too different from reality. The notion that people will begin to fall in love with technology is something which is quite easily predictable also. There’s the example of Theodore telling his work colleague he’s dating an OS and he doesn’t batter an eyelid, and when he tells his best friend Amy (Amy Adams), she’s intrigued to know more than disgusted, and is even developing a strong friendship with her own OS.
Beautifully shot, with a gripping story and an interesting message, Her deserves all the plaudits it’s receiving.
‘If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and it’s the one thing we can’t allow.’
George Clooney’s World War II drama, The Monuments Men, is a much better film than what the critics are suggesting. On the contrary to the ‘slow’, ‘undramatic’ and ‘safe’ words that are being thrown at the film, there’s plenty on offer here to engage audiences and feel the struggles of the men on their hunt for stolen art.
The film sees Lieutenant Frank Stokes, played by Clooney, tasked by the president to gather a team of art and architecture experts in the hunt across Europe for the millions of stolen art taken by the Nazis to fill Hitler’s dream of storing and displaying it all in a proposed ‘Fuhrer Museum’. The ‘Monuments Men’ boasts an impressive line up of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban, as they look to find and restore the art to its rightful place in the final days of the war, with Hitler having decreed to have all stolen art burnt and destroyed should Germany fall.
There’s arguably not enough mention of the artistic backgrounds which fuel the men’s passion to fulfil their quest, although the warm, familiar faces with the energy and humour they bounce off each other with perhaps draws us in and on side.
However, the ‘lack of drama’ argument is one which I cannot fathom. There’s plenty to be drawn in by and narrative strands to keep us entertained. As well as the overarching hunt for the art, there’s Damon’s attempts to get information out of a French spy, played by Cate Blanchett impersonating Deidre Barlow. Goodman and Dujardin are teamed up and on a separate journey, as are Murray and Balaban, with their wit aiding the drama of their hunt for the art, and the various situations it leads them to. There’s also Bonneville’s struggle to maintain Bruges’s Madonna monument, which ultimately becomes the artefact which Clooney needs to recover the most.
The scene in which Bill Murray’s character hears the Christmas message from his family, and the carol being sung is a very poignant moment, particularly with the harsh montage of images of injured soldiers, and the helplessness of some people in the war. Clooney’s calm but angered speech to an injured German officer is also quite moving in one of the more serious moments of the film.
What perhaps is most likeable about this film is the story that needed to be told. Art, culture and history is what brought us all here today, and is celebrated across the world. To bring this true story to our attention is one we all should remember.
‘You should be nice to people on the way up because you might meet them again on the way down.’
It’s always a strange feeling taking your seat in the cinema and realising you’re one of the youngest there, but it’s often an indicator that the film that you’re about to see is a good one. This is certainly the case of Philomena, the true story of Journalist and former Government spin doctor, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) attempting to help Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) track down her long-lost son.
The film begins with a series of flashbacks which show a young Philomena being sent to a nunnery for committing the ‘sin’ of falling pregnant outside of wedlock. Her son is then mysteriously taken away in a car from the nunnery when he was 3 years old. Now on his 50th birthday, an older Philomena wants to find out what sort of a man he became. She then gains the help of Journalist, Martin Sixsmith, who’s interested in doing a ‘human interest story’ after his fall from grace in the Government. The journey sees them travel to America where it is believed her son would have been sold to a rich American family by the ‘evil nuns’. The journey that follows is one of heartbreak, closure and various twists in helping Philomena get her answers, and Martin to get his story, accumulating in an unlikely but heart-warming friendship between the two.
Dench gives an outstanding performance in conveying this heart breaking tale, and deserves the plaudits she’s receiving. When Philomena has hope, you have hope. When Philomena is upset, you feel upset. It may sound obvious, but not many actors can truly evoke this response upon an audience in such a profound way, and on numerous occasions you’ll be holding your head in your hands in sorrow.
Another aspect of Philomena which the film gets spot on is the comedic aspect which it is laced with, mainly down to the brilliant writing from Coogan and Jeff Pope. In the opening scene Coogan is delighted to find out his stool sample has been marked as ‘outstanding’, only to learn this means he hasn’t submitted one yet. ‘I suppose that’s the sort of thing you’d remember submitting’, he quirks.
The line between drama and comedy is drawn perfectly, where so many other films go wrong. The laughs often come as comic relief and to stop the upsetting subtext of the film becoming too heavy. However, when it’s time to be serious at certain points of the film, the laughter ceases, to allow the sadder aspects to be realised. Perfect.
Notes: Nuns are scary. They should make a horror film where nuns are the villains.
Fans of the film may want to read ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee’ by Martin Sixsmith to find out more about the true story the film is based upon.