Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) is a former literary luminary who struggles at his new job as a prep school English teacher. When Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche), an abstract painter and art teacher, arrives on campus, Jack's passions for both Dina and the written word are invigorated. As a performance review nears, Jack comes up with a competition between his students and Dina's - a battle between Words and Pictures - that he hopes will inspire the children and save his job in the process.
What is more influential: words, or pictures? This is the question proposed in the 2013 film Words and Pictures. Much more than just an off-kilter romantic comedy, this film takes us into the lives of a private school’s English teacher and the new art teacher. It is a solid three out of five stars, and will spark some interesting conversations.
The story revolves around two teachers at a private school. Jack Marcus (played by Clive Owen) is the school’s lively English teacher who has an intense passion for words and language; and a penchant for alcohol. Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) is the school’s new art teacher that believes pictures are a more influential medium; and is struggling to continue her art career despite suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Will the two find an answer, and will they find a way to turn their lives back around?
At first look, the story seems like it has been done before. We have seen teachers from different backgrounds joining new schools and finding unorthodox ways to engage their students. However, Words and Pictures focuses more on the teachers, and how they are still learning and finding new ways to experience life and the world. As a writer, I feel compelled to side with Marcus (Owen), but as an aspiring filmmaker, I also see the importance of visuals, so this film made me stop and think. In addition to this, the film is a romance story, with subplots that involve the students at the private school. Some elements seem generic and predictable, but the main focus is on this specific group of characters.
The choice of casting was interesting, and contained quite a few people I am unfamiliar with, but who did a brilliant job. I have seen Clive Owen in a couple of projects, and while he isn’t an overly stand-out actor, he plays his roles well. Juliette Binoche plays the other lead in the film. I haven’t seen any of Binoche’s performances before, and was very impressed with her work in this film. As an artist herself, we were given a real display of her talent and process, and it helped give the film authenticity.
Words and Pictures has mainly had a limited release, and there hasn’t been much talk of it, but what has been said has been mixed. The main critique has been that the characters are a bit too cliche (re:opposites attract), and it failed to delve into the deeper elements of living with a physical disability (rheumatoid arthritis) and a mental disease (alcoholism). It has done well at film festivals - where this kind of film fits best - but I don’t know if it will do as well with general audiences.
This is not going to be the best film you ever see, nor will you feel like you have wasted an hour and a half. Words and Pictures is simply entertaining and enjoyable.