Oh my goodness, some more theaters are opening up and things are getting “national releases” at this point, depending on where you are in the country.
Words on Bathroom Walls was scheduled to come out in late July, but never really moved when the rest of the exoduses began to happen, and then just creeped back barely a month, to find a time it can come out and be appreciated at a social distance.
So this review was written quite awhile ago, is what I am getting at.
Words on Bathroom Walls is a book from the last decade, about high schoolers dealing with issues. That isn’t specific. I think I have noticed a bigger trend lately on high school literature is that they might be able someone who has a maybe misunderstood illness, to give these protagonists a better shake on how their lives run and understanding. Sure, these things have been done before, but they were often not well researched, or went extremely basic with the issues, becoming offensive on their own.
That is one of the main things I will look for with this movie. Does it explain things beyond the stereotype? Does it feel fair? Does it educate and still tell a good story? Has the research been done?
And of course, most importantly, will there be a prom?
Adam (Charlie Plummer) is a senior in high school, and he has now had a real big old panic attack. It happened in Chemistry. It causes a friend of his to get hurt. He started hearing and seeing things that were not there, it was very frightening, and all of his classmates were witness to his meltdown.
You see, it turns out that Adam has schizophrenia, and it all sort of just hit him at once. He can see and hear three main different people in his life. There is Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), a free spirited girl, there is Joaquin (Devon Bostick), a horny friend from a 90’s film, and there is a bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian), an intimidating person who is just trying to protect him. And there is a fourth darker voice that he can hear occasionally, and is especially dreadful.
But this isn’t the only thing going on in Adama’s life. He is a senior in high school, and would still like to graduate on time. So he has to start at a new private school. His mom (Molly Parker) was raising him on his own for a long time, so Adam became a good cook to help their family unit out, and eventually she got a new spouse to help out (Walton Goggins), but Adam doesn’t like or trust him.
Adam’s biggest worries are trying to ignore these voices, to appear normal to his new friends and classmates, and survive until graduation. Then he can go to culinary school and be happy. He also has to deal with experimental medication that can clear the voices but might effect him in different ways. And he also has to deal with Maya (Taylor Russell), the smartest girl in school who has taken an interest in him and him to her.
Eventually Adam will realize everyone has baggage, and his just might be harder to cope with.
Also starring Andy Garcia, as a priest,
oh, I also need my teenage fiction to include a graduation ceremony.
Okay, a movie dealing with schizophrenia, at the high school level, with a cast of characters that include different/voices in a characters head (and appearing around him from his mind) to offer advice throughout it. My immediate thought is, oh no, this is going to be wacky, and they will be a constant source of shenanigans or voices, and this feels stereotypical schizophrenia.
But! They are not throughout the film. Because he is taking trial drugs to help deal with the voices, so they do in fact leave for large chunks and it still can tell a compelling story about living with schizophrenia by making it also a film about dealing with the need to use a drug to better function (and the side effects those drugs can bring). I feel like the schizophrenia was handled with a large amount of respect. When I researched if the author researched enough for their book, I found no complaints by any schizophrenia organizations. So if it is schizophrenia approved, I have to assume it got things right and avoided potential offense, great job team.
Watching this movie actually made me want to read the book, and I still plan on it if I can find a local copy (I do not want to use Amazon to buy it). The book is written from the point of view of Adam telling about his life and stories to a therapist, and so you take the role as the therapist in the book. They do acknowledge that in the movie, and have a few therapist scenes where Adam is talking to the camera instead, to get that same feel, but I am sure it is not as strong as the book, because we get to actually see events.
I thought Plummer was a really good lead for this film and Russell was a great co-lead, with her own problems to deal with, and their relationship felt like it grew at a realistic pace, with realistic pitfalls.
Another shout out goes to Parker, for being a great mom dealing with all of this, and also Goggins, playing an extremely normal role based on what he has done in the past. That of a step-father trying to be supportive of his step-son and doing the right thing, without being able to get really close.
Honestly, this movie packed a lot of punches in the right spots for me emotionally. It told a good story, about schizophrenia, without also only being about schizophrenia. It was relatable for other reasons, and hit me emotionally. I don’t think my high rating is just because of the lack of good films this summer, I hope not, but I definitely fully recommend people giving this movie a chance. Maybe not in theaters, depending on your safety concerns, but whenever it is available at home.
4 out of 4.