Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche star in this playful comic drama about an English teacher who challenges the school’s art teacher to a "war" between words and pictures — and, in the process, sparks an unlikely romance.
Words and Pictures
Words or pictures? The precision of language or the ineffable impact of the image? These very different modes of expression — the building blocks of cinema — will be pitted one against the other in this witty, romantic, and ultimately moving film.
Prep school English teacher Jack Marcus (Clive Owen, also starring in the Festival Gala Presentation Blood Ties) laments his students' obsession with social media and good grades — as opposed to rigorous engagement with language. A one-time literary star, Jack has not published in years. He's let the school's literary magazine fall into ruin. He's estranged from his son. In short, Jack has much to despair of, and when Jack despairs, Jack drinks. A lot. Jack's drunken behaviour has been bad enough to have him banned from a local upscale pub.
Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) is an abstract painter. Like Jack, she was once celebrated for her art, but the onset of arthritis has made the physical act of painting too painful to bear. Jack finds Dina attractive but icy; he flirts with and provokes her with equal relish.
With a performance review looming and his job on the line, Jack comes upon an inspired method of galvanizing student interest in their studies: he declares a war between words and pictures, confident that the former can convey greater meaning than the latter. Dina accepts Jack's challenge and the battles begin. But, before they even know it, their hearts have also entered the fray.
Veteran director Fred Schepisi infuses Gerald DiPego's character-driven script with great playfulness, while Owen and Binoche are as charismatic and complicated as ever, playing characters whose abundant personal troubles have not yet crushed their fiery spirits. Their war is not so much about individual victory as it is about collective triumph.