#REVIEW: “WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
During his senior year, Adam (Charlie Plummer) has an incident at school which leads to him be expelled and diagnosed with Schizophrenia. With limited school choices, his mother Beth (Molly Parker) enrols her faith-questioning son into a Catholic school. It’s there that Adam makes the choice to keep his illness a secret. However, his walls begin coming down when he falls for Maya (Taylor Russell).
Depicting any mental illness on screen is a daunting task. Fortunately, Words on Bathroom Walls represents living with the illness in a respectful manner. That’s thanks to Screenwriter Nick Naveda who delicately adapts Julia Walton’s Novel of the same name. The dark side of Adam’s illness is portrayed as a violent cloud whose voice torments him. Refreshingly, Schizophrenia isn’t only depicted in a negative light. There are three ‘people’ who Adam sees and hears; they often help and protect him.
Director Thor Freudenthal visually highlights the good and bad aspects of Adam’s illness. In scenes where Adam is speaking to his three companions, it’s bright and spacious. When Adam’s tormentor arrives, the scene becomes dark and claustrophobic. These shooting decisions are best executed the closer we get to the climax. Freudenthal creates the most frightening version of the cloud chasing Adam at his lowest moment and showing how Adam can control it at his highest moment.
Plummer is completely vulnerable and excellent at illustrating Adam’s fear and frustration with his illness. This allows us to route for Adam as he struggles with his diagnosis. Yet, this isn’t a film solely about mental illness. It’s the story of Adam falling for the feisty and intelligent Maya. Thankfully, Maya doesn’t exist just to help Adam. She’s got a story, secret and goal of her own. Russell perfectly depicts the clever, tenacious Maya while creating relatability through her inherent compassion. Plummer and Russell are both vulnerable in their characters and with each other, which creates strong chemistry on screen.
Out of the Supporting Cast, Andy Garcia steals the show as the school’s priest. Some of the best moments in the Film happen when Adam goes to confessional. These often-humorous scenes work well because they give the audience a break from the heavier subject matter. In them, Plummer gets to show his comedic side, while Garcia is hilarious in his reactions and responses to Adam’s amusingly-honest confessions.
Overall, Words on Bathroom Walls is a Romance that shines a light on what it is like living with mental illness. It also delivers a touching lesson that we are only truly loved when we are being authentically ourselves.
VVS Films release WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS on VOD, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, January 12, 2021.