The Words is a film that seemingly offers an interesting premise, but doesn't quite follow through with its delivery. It involves a number of story lines, some of which are certainly more interesting than others, with the Quaid story-line never seeming to work. In that sense, the script is a mixed bag, with some good dialogue (delivered by Jeremy Irons of course), and some smart uses of flashbacks, but at the same time it's seemingly overly-written, with too many threads that don't seem to connect. This gives the film a certain disjointed, unpolished feeling.
The acting, however, is pretty strong throughout, with Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons making for an interesting pairing. A lot of the scenes were staged well, with a consistent tone, and a respect for the talents involved. The script, however, never gives them much to work with, with its constant shifts and lack of a coherent through-line. This makes the film seem a bit meandering in that it never seems to quite pull itself together.
The message, that of the past coming back to haunt us, dealing with our limitations, and the fear of inadequacy, I appreciated, and the film certainly had moments in which it conveyed all of these films well. Overall, however, it simply didn't have the narrative to give it the necessary engagement. As such, it fails on a cinematic level, seeming more fitted for a book or even a stage play.