[REVIEW] ‘Words on Bathroom Walls’: #EndtheStigma

jen and I

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well and getting through these tough times as smoothly as possible. I know it is impossible for some people to go to an indoor theater and I know some of you think I am crazy for doing so but we are basically open for new movies here in Utah and I’m here for it! (I fully support anyone who has chosen to not attend a movie theater btw). I have insured I have my mask on during the entire screening, have the back row so nobody is behind me, sit on the aisle so nobody is to the left of me and have typically had almost the whole theater to myself. I understand this is not enough safety with santization and cleanliness but it is for me.

All that said, I was able to go to a new movie with my friend Jen, who is my #1 movie buddy. This is our second time to the theater since quarantine and the first time we got to have one of our big epic chats at the end of it. I missed those sooooo much! It was so good for the soul.

The film that brought us back to the theaters is the coming of age story Words on Bathroom Walls (yes, the name is stupid).

Before I write this review I want to make it clear that my knowledge of schizophrenia is limited and I tried to find some reviews of this movie (or even the book) from the perspecitve of a person with schizophrenia and I was unsuccessful. My perspective is purely an outsider pov and how I think the movie encouraged a discussion on the topic.

Words on Bathroom Walls is based on a novel by Julia Walton and it tells the story of a teen named Adam who starts to hear voices and see personalities around him. There’s a chill New Age girl, an angry bodyguard and a slick cool guy. All these voices fight for his attention along with his love interest Maya (Taylor Russell) and single Mom (Molly Parker) and step-Dad Paul (Walton Goggins). Andy Garcia also appears as the priest at the new Catholic school Adam begins attending after he faces with some bullying at his public school.

The first thing that really works in Words in Bathroom Walls is Charlie Plummer’s performance. He is without a doubt one of the best young actors we have today and if you need proof of that watch him in the criminally overlooked Lean on Pete, which was one of my favorite movies of 2018. He was great as Pete but he’s also great as Adam, showing the anger, frustration and sweet sides of his personality making you invested in his character and anxious for him to get the help he needs.


That’s the other positive trait of this movie- it gets viewers especially teens talking about mental illness and working to END THE STIGMA. In the film Adam asks his shrink why when someone gets a disease like cancer everyone is kind and understanding but if someone gets a mental illness like schizophrenia they back away in fear? This is wrong and we needrt to tell the stories of those with all kinds of mental illness especially when it comes to teens who can be so lonely and confused. It needs to stop and we need to provide better health care in this country for those that are dealing with a chronic or crisis mental health condition.

Where Words on Bathroom Walls is a weaker is the last act that feels uncomfortable in ending with any kind of uncertainty. All the characters have to be made nice (although one moment had me crying on my mask but I won’t spoil it for you). All the challenges have to be overcome and that definitely feels a little too tidy for the realism of the rest of the movie. On the other hand, it’s hard to overly fault a movie for being too hopeful and trying to inspire its audience too much, so I’m inclined to be forgiving.

It also felt like some of the depictions of the schizophrenia in the film are a little sensationalized for dramatic effect. Again, I don’t know this for a fact but I remember when  A Beautiful Mind came out some people with schizophrenia said that movie didn’t capture the experience very well and I have a feeling they’d have the same complaints here but if anyone can provide further insight in that regard I would love to learn more.

All that said, if you have teenagers I recommend watching Words on Bathroom Walls and having a discussion about Adam and his struggles. What can we do to end the stigma and make things better for those with a mental illness? As someone who has faced panic attacks this is extremely important to me so this movie really hit a chord with me even with its flaws. If you get a chance to see it I recommend it.

7 out of 10

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Reader Zach reached out to me and we talked about schizophrenia and how it was portrayed in this film


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