Words and Pictures

“A thoughtful film (***½ out of four) about ideas — creativity, the power of language and the eloquence of visuals — it features two impeccable performances full of vitality. Clive Owen plays Jack Marcus, a voluble prep school English teacher who laments the reductive nature of social media. Juliette Binoche is Dina Delsanto, an Italian-born expressionist painter and art instructor at the same elite New England school. Both are disillusioned with life and education. They are tart-tongued and cantankerous, but engaging.
“Once a rising literary star, Jack reveres the written word but hasn't written any of his own in a while. His position as honors English teacher is up for a performance review, and Jack's growing alcoholism and literary malaise can no longer be ignored by the powers that be. He is maddeningly self-destructive, but still a dedicated and inspiring teacher.
“When Dina arrives at the school, Jack tries to involve her in his incessant show-off word games. Dina has little use for Jack. Plot contrivances ensue, but the flaws are surmounted by excellent lead performances, stimulating dialogue and witty banter. Their verbal sparring is intensified by a mutual attraction. As part of their duel, Jack sets up a contest between the potency of the written word and the power of imagery. This literature vs. art construct is a clever device thematically.
“But most of all this is a little ditty about Jack and Dina. As such, it works. A charismatic teacher, he reads eloquent passages from authors from Ian McEwan to William Shakespeare to awaken a love of words in his students. But then he goes home and gets drunk and disorderly. Owen's portrait of alcoholism feels cringingly authentic.
“Binoche is convincing as a woman struggling with a physical disability, yet projecting vitality. When Dina lets her guard down and finally accepts Jack's overtures, their romantic sparks feel earned and believable.” - Claudia Puig, USA Today


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