Words on Bathroom Walls is available to rent or buy now.
For many years, Hollywood demonised various mental health conditions ranging from schizophrenia to personality disorder and bipolar. These conditions would often be linked to characters who would murder or harm others, enhancing fear in the public imagination. While the genres in which these characters would appear were primarily horror, psychological thrillers or tragic dramas. Here, dangerous perceptions of abnormality, fear and immorality surrounded mental health as film embraced public distrust and discrimination.
However, this has begun to change in recent years, with filmmakers embracing a more accurate, delicate and informed view of mental health on screen. In many ways, this modern cinematic shift began with Good Will Hunting in 1997 and, therefore, it is no surprise the Williams, Damon movie finds reference in Words on Bathroom Walls. However, Thor Freudenthal’s movie is very much its own unique and beautiful creation. With its assured, sensitive and engaging screenplay based on the equally impressive young adult novel by Julia Walton.
READ MORE: LEAN ON PETE
The film opens with young Adam (Charlie Plummer) explaining that his doctors first viewed his condition as a visual defect. His deep green eyes, tricking him into seeing swirling mists, shadows and objects. But, as time progressed, Adam began to realise his visions were far more than a deficit in his eyesight. However, initially, Adam learns to control the figures and voices that swirl in his mind through his passion for cooking. The kitchen, not only a refuge but a fortress of solitude, creativity and invention; his dream, to become a chef. But, how long can Adam hide the increasing severity of the visions and voices surrounding him from his mum? And how long will it be before his school life falls victim to the new world his mind is creating?
Plummer’s outstanding performance alongside an equally strong supporting cast ensures Words on Bathroom Walls transcends the boundaries of young adult fiction on screen. While at the same time remaining rooted in a teenage aesthetic that encourages debate and discussion among young people watching. The film’s creative, engaging, and scary visual representations of Adam’s thoughts stunning in both design and construct. And while there are moments where Words on Bathroom Walls falls prey to the usual tropes of young adult fiction, the core messages of the movie remain fully intact. Here, Adam’s own words define the importance of the film and its conversations on mental health, “It’s hard to let someone find you in all the dark and twisty places inside, but eventually, you have to hope that they do, because that’s the beginning of everything.”