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, depression and bipolar. These conditions would find themselves linked to characters who would go on to murder or harm others while encouraging and enhancing a public fear of mental health. However, in recent years, this damaging stigma and oppression has begun to change, with filmmakers embracing the opportunity to put the record straight while attempting to re-write the mistrust and hate once sewn through celluloid. It could be argued that this cinematic shift truly took flight with Good Will Hunting in 1997, and it is, therefore, no surprise that this film finds itself referenced in Thor Freudenthal’s Words on Bathroom Walls, based on the young adult novel by Julia Walton.
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As the film opens, young Adam (Charlie Plummer) explains 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 Adam always knew these strange visions were something more, even when he attempted to convince himself otherwise. Adam quickly learnt that control of the images and voices that swirled around his mind came through an unlikely source, cooking. His kitchen was his refuge and fortress as he dreamed of becoming a world-renowned chef. But as the visions and voices increased, it became more and more challenging to control the disintegrating world around him.
Charlie Plummer is a damn fine young actor, and his outstanding performance ensures Words on Bathroom Walls transcends the usual boundaries of young adult fiction. Meanwhile, Freudenthal’s creative approach to direction, particularly in the first half of the film, brings the inner world Adam inhabits into the external ‘real’ world to stunning effect. While there are moments where Words on Bathroom Walls falls prey to the classic tropes of young adult fiction, the core messages of the movie and its abundant creativity are never lost. It is here where Adam’s own words summarise the film’s essential questions and 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.”