I am struggling to remember what my expectations were when I first saw the trailer for Words on Bathroom Walls. Normally these kind of stories compel me because I am a sucker for teenage romance. Those first kisses on the cusp of freedom from high school. A plane ride home (with a few delays) proved the perfect isolated escape when I couldn’t go to the theater this week.
Here’s the thing. Words on Bathroom Walls is way more intense and beautiful than I anticipated. It’s based on the novel by Julia Walton and shares the story of Adam (Charlie Plummer), a high school senior who suffers from schizophrenia. That’s a nutshell statement. There’s the usual teenage stuff that we all remember and relate to. But it’s way more than that.
The exploration and understanding of this mental illness is performed with care and consideration. We are brought into the fear in Adam’s cinematic mind with visuals and sounds that heighten a familiar cruel anxiety. But, he cannot step away and take a breath. Even while surrounded by support of family, friends and therapeutic accommodations, his illness prevails. It is very intentionally uncomfortable.
Beyond this insight is the brilliant, REAL humanity and support of the supporting roles. Without fronting my opinions of priests in general, Andy Garcia is now a close second to “Hot Priest” Andrew Scott from Fleabag. I want to believe these characters exist in real life!
You’re not going to get away without some serious respect for Adam’s mom and her boyfriend. Back and forth I waned with whether or not I liked them. And that’s kind of my response to people in real life, you know? I didn’t mention the girlfriend, but she’s entirely present. It’s just that it wasn’t a typical teenage romance – it was way more.
Ultimately I feel a sense of awareness after experiencing this film. An unexpected gift.