Twitter Plot Summary: A lonely man falls in love with his computer operating system, Samantha. Happens to us all…
Five Point Summary:
1. Such lovely, handwritten… they’re printed? Say what?
2. Hello Samantha.
3. A picnic and a trip to the beach? Bless.
4. She seems a bit distant…
5. And the inevitable happens.
Theodore (Phoenix) is a writer with a particular talent for writing beautiful “hand-written” letters (they’re all computer generated – go figure) for other people, letters that reach to the depths of human emotion and feeling. Yet despite his ability in this field, he remains emotionally closed off in his personal life following his break-up and impending divorce from Catherine (Mara). He does everything you’d expect of a lonely person in a massively connected world – he tries online dating, now with direct voice chat with other lonely types, mopes around a lot and throws himself into his work. Then he discovers a new operating system which will help him take control of his life and meet the right people, etc etc. From here, he falls for the operating system, Samantha (Johansson) and she falls for him, resulting in a blossoming, if not entirely physical, relationship.
What’s impressive is that the relationship between Theodore and Samantha does feel realistic, for the most part you don’t pay too much attention to the fact she’s just a voice coming from a computer. From what is admittedly (Sadly? Thankfully?) not a huge amount of personal experience, the script nails how an “ordinary” relationship would pan out, and Phoenix nails the performance. He’s understated and melancholic, quite the opposite of what we normally expect from him. He’s joined by a similarly downturned performance from Amy Adams as his best friend, although efforts at making her look dour and a bit frumpy fail by a significant margin. Scarlett Johansson meanwhile is, unsurprisingly, perfect as Samantha, although on occasion you do get the feeling that she’s not quite linking directly with the footage, which becomes more obvious when you realise Johansson was a last minute replacement in the recording booth for Samantha Morton, who also read the lines live on set.
The script asks a number of questions about the meaning of emotion, the meaning of relationships, the meaning of purportedly finding “the one” in whatever form that may take. In this open minded future world it appears that only Theodore’s ex has any issue with him being in a relationship with an operating system – if anything, the script could have perhaps elaborated on this a little, however I get the impression that this would have been detrimental to the central dynamic between Theodore and Samantha. Everybody else is supportive of the relationship, despite the fact it can never be a physical connection. Whilst efforts are made by Samantha to introduce a surrogate – somebody pretending to be Samantha in physical form – into the relationship, this understandably doesn’t work out.
For anybody concerned that this might become a sub-par Skynet type story, rest assured – this is a romantic drama where one of the partners is a computer. Whilst it might seem a bit odd to say it, it’s nothing more than that. People wouldn’t blink at this exact same story being played out by two people rather than a man and his computer, and that if nothing else should indicate just how well it works.