Words on Bathroom Walls (2020)
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Writer: Nick Naveda
Starring: Charlie Plummer, Andy Garcia, Taylor Russell, AnnaSophia Robb, Beth Grant, Molly Parker, and Walton Goggins
Plot: After a schizophrenic episode, a high school senior is transferred to a new school where he strikes up a romance with the valedictorian.
Review: I think I’ve discovered a very specific genre of movie that I’m always going to be pulled into. It’s called the “sick teen romance” movie. It’s an easy sub-genre to classify. There’s a teenage. They have a disease. They don’t let the illness stop them from falling in love. And, there’s usually crying. Sounds too specific, right? Well, The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars, Warm Bodies (to a certain degree) and, of course, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl beg to differ. And, I fell for it every single time. I love each of those movies. There’s just something about that formula that hits home with me. Enter Words on Bathroom Walls. It fits right into this genre and hit me directly in the feels. Awful title. Great movie.
Before we get too deep into this review, I have to admit something. I know next to nothing about schizophrenia. My knowledge is surface level at best. Thus, I have no idea how accurate this movie’s portrayal of the illness is. However, I can say that I really enjoyed the way it was represented here. Our main character, Adam, essentially sees and hears four characters that don’t actually exist. One is a manic pixie dream girl played by AnnaSophia Robb. She’s constantly cheering him on. The next is your typical horny frat boy. He, of course, is basically the lead’s sex drive. Then, there’s a bodyguard who wants to protect him. And, finally, the dark foreboding voice who’s constantly trying to make everything worse. He’s the guy who tells him everyone hates him. He’s the negative voice everyone has in their heads. But, in this case, he’s very much real to Adam. I really like the dynamic these guys had. I like that they each had their own distinct personalities and interacted with him in different ways. It kind of felt a bit like Inside Out. And, it was a really fun way of showing the effects of the illness without poking fun at it. There are times that you laugh, but you’re laughing with Adam and not at him. I felt like that was very important.
But, it’s not just the imaginary characters that shine brightly in Words on Bathroom Walls. For a movie that features almost no huge names, it sure is packed with incredible performances. Plummer kills it as Adam. You really feel the turmoil this kid is going through. There are quite a few scenes of him struggling that absolutely broke my heart. Likewise, his parents are terrific. Grant does such a great job playing the heartbroken mother who is just trying her best. It’s a very real and touching performance. And, of course, there’s his girlfriend played by Taylor Russell. She was another breakout star here for me. I’ve never seen any of her work but was drawn into her magnetic performance right away. Her character could’ve easily been the throw-away “straight” character but Russell and the writers turned it into so much more. But, honestly, my favorite performance in the whole movie has to be that of Walton Goggins. I can’t get into it too much without getting spoilery, but his character definitely made me cry the most. Oh, yeah, did I mention it’s a crying movie? I did? Good. Because this is definitely a crying movie.
As you can probably tell, I really, really enjoyed Words on Bathroom Walls. It managed to walk the line between heartbreaking and uplifting perfectly. Plus, there’s a ton of memorable characters and performances. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s into this sort of movie.
That title really, really sucks though, doesn’t it? I’m never going to remember it…
TL;DR: Words on Bathroom Walls is a heartbreaking, real look at mental illness that also features a fun, lighthearted cast of characters.
Score: 8/10 (Great)