Movie Review: The Words

Movie Review: The Words

A heady collision of fact and fiction

By Mark HadleyThursday 11 Oct 2012MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

'The Words' tells a story of owning both life's high's and its lows.

Rating: M
Distributor: Rialto
Release Date: October 11


The Words
is a fascinating drama about a writer who discovers the determination to make something of his life, but not the courage to accept the consequences of his actions.
 

Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, Limitless) plays Rory Jansen, an aspiring novelist desperately trying to interest publishers in a manuscript he’s spent three years writing. However doors keep closing because his story lacks passion. Then, in the lining of an old briefcase, he discovers an unsigned story that is clearly brilliant. Desperate to succeed, Rory submits the book as his own and turns into a success overnight. But at the peak of his career an old man comes calling, telling the young writer he will have to account for stealing his life.
 
The Words is a clever film. To begin with it’s actually three stories about three writers – the old man, Rory and the writer Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) who’s actually telling this tale. All three acknowledge that success is a mercurial thing – “God looked down and said, ‘This one is going to be a writer. His words will be valued,” says Jeremy Irons, playing the old man. So much depends on the writer’s circumstances, the publisher’s intuition, the audience’s taste. However their shared love of words leads them to make unfortunate choices. The old man falls out with his lover, Rory steals another man’s work and Clay sacrifices his marriage – and The Words becomes a story about owning the highs as well as the lows.
 
Confronted by the old man, Rory begins to offer garbled explanations as to how he could have taken credit for his story. But ‘sliding out’ on his responsibility is not an option. Neither is confessing his guilt it seems. Rory wants to correct the lies he’s told, but neither his wife, his publisher nor even the old man are interested in him revealing the truth: “We all make choices in life and the hardest thing is to live with them – and there aint no one can help you with that.”
 
The Words is a film about accepting our mistakes, not undoing them. Everyone sins and the moral of this story is that a man can learn to live with his failures, even rise above them. It’s not entirely untrue; history is resplendent with people who have turned the corner on a life begun badly. However the first step is invariably the admission that they’ve done something wrong, not just to themselves but to the people they’ve hurt. Rory, Clay and the old man’s conclusion are just a tad convenient.
After all we never have much trouble finding compassion for ourselves. But what if the words, ‘I forgive you’ aren’t ours to utter? The truth is the old man was wrong, there is someone who can help you live with your bad choices. God’s only condition is that you admit your first mistake was choosing to reject Him.