Based on the novel of the same name by Julia Walton, Words on Bathroom Walls is a young adult coming-of-age drama from director Thor Freudenthal.
The film follows Adam (Charlie Plummer), a teen living with schizophrenia. Adam is expelled from his high school after a psychotic episode during chemistry class results in Adam knocking over a vial containing an acidic chemical that burns through a classmate’s arm. After being transferred to St. Agatha’s Catholic School, Adam meets Maya (Taylor Russell). She agrees to tutor him and soon the two begin to develop romantic feeling towards each other, but Adam is determined to keep his condition a secret from her.
Words on Bathroom Walls sets out to help its audience understand and empathise with people living with a condition that is still widely feared and stigmatised. Adam has an amazing monologue explaining how people with illnesses like cancer are given their last wish and people are eager to help them, but schizophrenic people are pushed away by those around them, often resulting in them suffering alone, sometimes homeless, screaming at things that aren’t there.
Charlie Plummer and Taylor Russell have great chemistry and deliver powerhouse performances and the direction is wildly inventive, especially during the hallucination sequences which are presented like something straight out of a horror film.
Despite relying on a few too many young adult film cliches, Words on Bathroom Walls is a well acted and deeply empathetic portrayal of mental illness that has the best of intentions as it attempts to spread mental health awareness through the telling of this story. It succeeds admirably.
Reviewed by Jordan Ellis.