Words on Bathroom Walls
Quirky teen romantic comedies such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl and Love, Simon have carved a beloved niche in indie cinema over the past decade. Walking a fine line between awkward high school drama and genuinely heartwarming tale, these critical darlings have made for some of the most uplifting and unforgettable outings in recent years.
The latest addition to the genre is Thor Freudenthal’s (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) Words on Bathroom Walls. Based on the novel of the same name by Julia Walton, the film shines a light on schizophrenia through the lens of high school senior Adam (Charlie Plummer), who’s transferred to a prestigious Catholic school after suffering a psychotic break that leaves a fellow student injured. With his chances of graduating and enrolling in culinary school diminishing, he befriends overachieving straight-A student Maya (Taylor Russell), whilst confronting the voices in his head and difficult family situation.
Starting off at a rapid pace, Freudenthal’s flick shows plenty of promise as Adam quickly fills viewers in on his mental illness and introduces us to the trio of characters that represent the voices in his head. Given the subject matter, it’s a surprisingly upbeat opening that instantly makes Adam an endearing protagonist. However, it doesn’t take long for the darker side of his illness to come to light in the form of a menacing voice that whispers from the shadows. Whenever this aspect comes into play the imagery onscreen is like a horror film; growing increasingly bleaker with each appearance, the screenplay never takes its eye off the serious side of mental illness.
Despite the good intentions and boisterous energy of the opening act, Writing on Bathroom Walls ultimately lacks the spark of other genre outings to make it as truly special as it aims to be. This can be attributed to the screenplay’s reliance on clichéd tropes driving the narrative, rather than the characters themselves. Plummer and Russell’s onscreen chemistry, for example, is witty and fun but their relationship never moves far enough past the first steps to become as invested as the script wants. The stakes just aren’t high enough for the emotional pay-off that’s required, and the same theme holds true for the other subplots and relationships.
While unique and lighthearted on the surface, Words on Bathroom Walls sadly lacks the commitment to come into its own.
Words on Bathroom Walls is released in select cinemas on 6th November 2020.
Watch the trailer for Words on Bathroom Walls here: