Review / ‘Words and Pictures’ (M) *** and a half

words and picturesBRAVO, Fred Schepisi, for turning Gerald de Pego’s insightful screenplay into a film deserving better praise than other media have given it.

“Words and Pictures” is more than merely a college rom-com. Emotional discomfort driven by divorce and alcohol, coupled with intellectual hubris, constrain the life-satisfactions of English teacher Jack (Clive Owen). Intense pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis limits art teacher Dina (Juliette Binoche) in movement, work and life enjoyment. The screenplay erects an argument between them.

The plot weaves a credible dramatic fabric involving teachers, school management and students, treating Jack’s and Dina’s debilitations without conferring any inalienable right to a happy outcome.

The dialogue is a linguistic and literary potpourri of fine small things, although Jack’s predilection for oral lexicography in the middle of conversation is a mild annoyance, as I’m sure de Pego intended. Juliette Binoche herself makes Dina’s large colour-field paintings that have something to say to people willing to persevere with them and enough wall space.

And the boy-girl romantic thing? While simmering on the back burner throughout the film, its emotions don’t boil over. Its closing implication of optimism is admirably restrained. It may work, it may not. We are free to choose. Arriving at that stage has been a pleasurable experience.

At Capitol 6 and Palace Electric

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