Her is a masterpiece that easily deserves to win Best Picture. Impressive world-building, superb acting, a heartbreaking plot and an unexpected ending create an emotionally resonant sci-fi romance that never wanders into cliché.

Writer/director Spike Jonze transports the audience into a stunning near-future world and introduces us to Theodore Twombly, who is hopelessly in love with Samantha, his artificially intelligent operating system. The futuristic but recognizable setting Jonze creates is stunning, and his characters are flawed but sympathetic.

Interacting mainly with Samantha and shown in extreme close-ups throughout most of the film, Joaquin Phoenix does an impressive job using facial expressions to convey loneliness and affection. The actor is fully immersed in his character and carries half the emotional weight of the film. The rest of that responsibility falls to Scarlett Johansson, who voices Samantha. Johansson projects fragile humanity without forgetting that her character is essentially a machine, radiating so much warmth, humour, and affection that the audience never doubts Samantha’s sentience nor her capacity to love.

Ostensibly about technology, Her doesn’t waste time explaining the technical aspects of artificial intelligence. Instead, like all great science fiction, it asks questions about what it means to be human.

Originally published in The Fulcrum as part of “The Fulcrum predicts the Oscars” by Patrick Fleming, Madison McSweeney, Jessica Eritou, Chelsea McManus, February 27, 2014