What You Need To Know:
Extremely well-acted, WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS takes viewers on a vivid, poignant emotional journey of hope, pain, fear, and love. It has a positive portrayal of an understanding Catholic priest who helps Adam in several scenes. However, the movie contains some foul language, brief crude dialogue, brief political correctness, and scary delusions. WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS is a compassionate treatment of schizophrenia, with a great ending, but MOVIEGUIDE® advises strong or extreme caution.
WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS is an absorbing personal drama about a high school senior suffering from schizophrenia who gets a final chance to fulfill his desire to go to culinary school with a new medication and a new opportunity to finish his secondary education at a Catholic school. Extremely well-acted, WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS takes viewers on a vivid, poignant emotional journey of hope, pain, fear, and love, with a positive portrayal of an understanding Catholic priest, but there’s some foul language, brief crude dialogue, brief political correctness, and scary delusions that warrant strong caution.
The story is narrated by the teenage boy, Adam, as if the camera is Adam’s therapist. It opens with Adam telling his therapist about the onset of his schizophrenia. His disease started with minor delusions, followed by voices. The voices turned into four characters. The first three were a teenage girl named Rebecca spouting hippie platitudes, a slovenly teenage boy named Joachm obsessed about girls and a rough cigar chomping man armed with a baseball bat who defends Adam. The fourth character is a dark, malevolent voice that tries to fill Adam with self-doubt and hate.
One day, Adam’s father just leaves the family. His mother tries to help Adam by exploring various kinds of medications for her son. None of them seem to work, however. Meanwhile, Adam has found that the only way to shut out the voices is by focusing on cooking meals for himself and his mom. Cooking becomes a passion for Adam, so he gets accepted to a culinary school after he graduates from high school. Meanwhile, Adam’s mother finds a boyfriend, who decides to live with them. Adam doesn’t trust him, however. He thinks the man wants to have him committed.
One day a school, the voices and delusions in Adam’s head get really bad. Adam imagines all the beakers and instruments in his chemistry lab starting to levitate. He accidentally knocks a beaker of acid on one boy’s arm, and Adam’s imaginary bodyguard appears with two other gang members armed with bats. Adam starts yelling, and the school’s security guard has to restrain him.
Adam’s psychotic episode gets him expelled from school. However, his mother finds a promising new medication for Adam offered by a new therapist. She also finds a Catholic school that agrees to take Adam in if he promises to keep taking the medication.
Adam starts taking the medication, which seems to work well for him. However, he needs to improve his grades, so he makes friends with the school’s beautiful valedictorian, a black Hispanic girl named Maya. He convinces his mom and Maya to pay Maya to help tutor him three nights a week. Adam and Maya find it easy to talk to each other, but Adam hides from Maya his mental illness. In the confessional booth, Adam also finds a welcoming ear from the Catholic school’s priest, though Adam warns the priest that he doesn’t really believe in God. The priest asks God to watch over Adam anyway. As a result of the new medication, Maya and the priest, Adam’s grades start to really improve.
Sadly, the new medication starts to cause tremors in Adam’s right hand and deprive him of his taste and smell. Fearful that this will take away his only joy in life, cooking, and crush his chance to attend culinary school, Adam decides to stop taking his medication and hide this from his mom. It’s only a matter of time, therefore, when Adam’s illness will raise its ugly head and destroy everything Adam and his mother have been working toward, wrecking his future.
The title WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS refers to the hateful gossip about other students and teachers that sometimes can be found on school bathroom walls. Adam is afraid that, once Maya finds out about his schizophrenia, she will think much less of him and accept the mean words that the schoolchildren will write about him.
WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS is extremely well acted. Charlie Plummer does a brilliant job depicting the hopes, fears, pain, doubt, desires, and madness of a young man dealing with schizophrenia. As his love interest, Taylor Russell turns in a very appealing performance. Charlie receives great incredible support from a talented veteran cast, including Andy Garcia as the priest, Molly Parker as the mother and Walton Goggins as the stepfather. The cast and crew deliver a vivid, poignant emotional journey of hope, pain, fear, and love.
The movie has a strong moral worldview that extols hope, compassion, love, honesty, and parental love. It also has a positive portrayal of a Catholic priest who tries to minister to Adam. He actually helps Adam two or three times in the movie, even though Adam tells the priest he doesn’t believe in God. Despite the movie’s positive ending, Adam doesn’t seem to change that opinion in the end, so some humanist and anti-Christian elements remain in the movie.
WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS also has some foul language, including one or two “f” words. There are also a couple lewd references, brief political correctness and scary delusions that warrant strong caution.
That said, the movie is a compassionate treatment of the problem of schizophrenia, a mental illness that often hits teenagers who are Adam’s age, or young adults in their twenties. Some may complain that the movie’s treatment of this problem is a little too slick, but a more gritty portrayal of the problem probably wouldn’t get the kind of broad audience toward which this movie is clearly aiming. The ending to WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS is really good.
According Christian sources, discussing spiritual matters and biblical faith with schizophrenic patients can help them separate reality from fantasy. Loving support from family, friends and church is also vitally important. In addition, helping patients deal with substance abuse problems that often accompany this mental illness is invaluable. Offering to take patients to job and therapy appointments and reminding them to take their medication helps keep them on track.
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