The Words directed by Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal begins with Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid), who is a successful writer. Clayton is seen reading from his new novel in a Manhattan bookstore. The novel is about another writer, Rory Jansen and how he reached the heights of his career. The Words embeds a story within a story at its core, which is a tale about ambition and plagiarism.
Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) a wannabe-writer, lives in New York with his girlfriend-turned-wife, Dora. In spite of working hard on his book, and giving it a long time of three years he was not able to convince the publisher to publish his book.
After losing all hope, he took up a mundane day job at a literary agency. While spending his honeymoon in Paris, he comes across a bag in an antique shop and buys it right away, little did he know that the bag can change his whole life. He finds a manuscript tucked in the bag and was spellbound after reading it. With his own career going downhill, he copies the novel and decides to give it off as his own work calling it “The Window Tears” and a star is born.
In no time, Rory becomes a celebrity with high acclaim given to his book. Rory enjoys this new-found fame and success until one day he happens to cross paths with the original writer of the book. After following Rory for many days, Old Man (Jeremy Irons), who originally wrote the book but lost it due to unavoidable circumstances, finds Rory and begins to unravel his story before him.
The Words paces back in the past, as the old man recounts the events of his life when he was young. He was recruited in the war going on in Paris and developed a liking for writing. He falls in love with a French waitress, Celia and marries her. Soon they have a daughter but she dies due to incurable illness. Unable to let go of the pain, Celia moves out to her mother’s house. He writes his first book out of the pain and rage of losing his wife and daughter.
He gives the manuscript to his wife, who loses it in a train which explains how Rory got hold of it in the first place. Angered by this gesture of losing his most beautiful creation, he part ways with his wife and returns to his home.
Rory is filled with shame after the confrontation and refusal of the old man to take anything from him. As told by the old man, “We all make difficult choices in life, the hard part is to live with them”, Rory, deep inside knew that he will have to live with his too.
The Words hints that Clayton wrote his own biography in his novel, as the old man tells Rory Jansen “now you have a new story to write” while parting ways. Although this has never been clearly revealed in the movie.
“You have to choose between life and fiction. The two are very close, but they never actually touch. They’re two very, very different things.”
The performances by all the characters are commendable, and so is the direction of the movie. The Words is loosely inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s life as his wife loses some of his manuscript for which he never forgave her.
The Words is streaming on Netflix.
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