The movie theaters are opening, and here’s a worthy reason to go.
A faithful adaptation of Julia Walton’s 2017 young adult novel of the same title, Words on Bathroom Walls tells the story of a young man named Adam who struggles to find his place in the world while grappling with severe mental illness. Adam has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, a disorder that affects the a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly.
Throughout the film, Adam’s condition is presented to the viewer through hallucinations, which most commonly appear in the form of three near-constant companions who materialize based on Adam’s emotions in any given scene. They include: Rebecca, a sweet, soulful, sprightly girl; Joaquin, a horny teen boy dressed only in an unbelted robe and underwear; and The Bodyguard, a tracksuit-clad, bat-wielding protector with a shaved head. This element brought great creativity to the movie, and we were almost sad that it wasn’t made into a TV show, so that these three characters could romp around for 10 episodes or more.
Adam’s life was thrown into disarray when he experienced a psychotic break in the middle of a classroom experiment, which led to him injuring a close friend. This leads to Adam becoming ostracized by the student body and ultimately being expelled in the middle of his senior year, at which point he picks up the remainder of his classes at a Catholic school, the fictional St. Agatha’s.
At St. Agatha’s the movie reveals that it is very much filled with Catholic themes. While Adam’s faith is never really a plot point, he becomes friendly with a priest, Fr. Patrick (played by Andy Garcia), who helps the troubled boy with calm conversation and careful consideration. Although Adam never feels called to pursue the Catholic faith further than these discussions, viewers will notice a real change in the boy because of them. The film shows that even a slight Catholic presence in one’s life can be largely beneficial to peace of mind.
Although the film is standard length, it is jam packed with thematic elements that would take more time than one review could cover. In the movie Adam attempts to balance his illness with a broken home, an incredibly intelligent yet secretive love-interest, and his pursuit of the culinary arts, all of which come together by the end of the movie to provide a twist that we dare not reveal here. It takes the film from a coming-of-age story to a truly fascinating delve into the psyche of a teen with such a difficult mental illness.
Words on Bathroom Walls gives the audience a lot to think about by approaching mental illness from the perspective of a boy who has it. There is one scene in particular, when Adam is sitting on a bus and notices that there is a homeless man with similar symptoms in the back. The man is having a much harder time of it than Adam, but to Adam the man is a grim reminder of what is at stake and where he could be without support and treatment.
The movie is marked by outstanding performances by the entire cast, but Charlie Plummer as Adam stole the show. He showed remarkable depth for an actor so young, and we expect to see him in many great roles to come.
Words on Bathroom Walls is set to release in theaters on Friday, August 21. Click here to learn more.
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