Words on Bathroom Walls explores a high school student’s schizophrenia diagnosis in a way that does not make it a stigma to discuss.
If you were to go into the film without knowing anything, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought it was supernatural. We quickly learn that we’re seeing things through Adam’s (Charlie Plummer) eyes. And just as quick, we learn that Adam also suffers from a mental illness. Adam wants to be a chef but thanks to a blow-up in class, his school has other plans for him. The easy thing to do here would be to shame Adam for suffering from a mental health illness. But deep down–and I can say this from battling depression–we know it’s wrong. We shouldn’t shame Adam at all for things that are outside of his control. It’s just the way his brain chemistry works, that’s all.
Adam’s mom, Beth (Molly Parker), enrolls him in a Catholic academy where things certainly look better. This is where he ends up meeting Maya (Taylor Russell). Maya has a way of getting Adam to open up with her in a way that doesn’t let his diagnosis define him. Until this point, Adam was keeping everything inside, including the hallucinations (AnnaSophia Robb, Devon Bostick, Lobo Sebastian).
Charlie Plummer broke out in a big way a few years ago with appearances in both All the Money in the World and Lean on Pete. Throw in a role in Hulu limited series Looking for Alaska, too. The actor delivers a solid performance in this film as well. Make no mistake that Plummer–no relation to Christopher–is a star on the rise.
Thor Freudenthal directs while Nick Naveda adapts the script from Julia Walton’s novel of the same name. Naveda adapts the book in a way that a story can be hold on screen. Walton’s novel is written in diary form, which doesn’t make for cinematic storytelling in most cases.
While Words on Bathroom Walls opened in less than 1,000 theaters this weekend, the film’s box office performance shows that people aren’t ready to go back yet. I mean, I watched this from the comfort of my apartment–press perks–where it’s certainly safer. But at the same time, I can’t feel comfortable recommending that people see this film in a theater. It’s an independent film and I’m just hoping that it’ll find an audience once it hits Digital/VOD.
Words on Bathroom Walls reminds us that mental health shouldn’t be a stigma and that we should keep the conversation going.
DIRECTOR: Thor Freudenthal
SCREENWRITER: Nick Naveda
CAST: Charlie Plummer, Andy Garcia, Taylor Russell, AnnaSophia Robb, Beth Grant, Devon Bostick, Lobo Sebastian, with Molly Parker and Walton Goggins