Words On Bathroom Walls ⭐️½
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Saturday August 22, 2020
Regal 16 Cinemas – Lacey, Washington
#28 new movie seen in theaters in 2020
Introducing Adam Petrazelli (Charlie Plummer), a schizophrenic teen student and our struggling protagonist. He’s been kicked out of high school for a meltdown caused by his medical condition, embarrassed and humiliated, his mother puts him in a religious school and on new medication that’s supposed to keep Adam’s condition in check.
Adam dreams to become a chef, but the new meds he’s taking are having conflicting side effects for his career choice. He meets the valedictorian Maya (Taylor Russell), who helps tutor him and a budding friendship ensues. Maya has a few secrets of her own that she tries to conceal.
Firstly, it was nice to see schizophrenia addressed in a movie. The subject matter, a person who sees people that aren’t there and voices seems more fit for a horror movie than a drama, but there is potential to tell an engrossing story about a character with a mental illness. Unfortunately, the way the story unfolds, particularly the first third of the movie is very dry. I mean like paint is chipping dry.
The voice inside Adam’s head? My goodness, it’s like Darth Vader with his helmet submerged in water. It’s not spooky or scary or dramatic, it’s annoying. Every time that voice came on, I wanted to poke my eye out with the straw in my soda. Then there are the people that appear for Adam … we never really understand what they are doing. One guy carries a bat and seems poised to use it for violence or hit a baseball. A woman character vision is more caring, perhaps to show Adam’s softer inner side? I don’t know. It just seemed like whenever Adam had a schizophrenic episode, the film became something else. It was very jarring and disjointed.
Maybe that’s the filmmaker’s way of showing how disruptive and debilitating schizophrenia is like for those it inflicts? I did feel for Adam during these episodes, but at the same time these episodes poorly fit the film the way they were portrayed. Maybe if it had started out in some sort of treatment facility and there was some exploration of these characters in Adam’s head they would have fit the narrative better.
Instead, these characters were intrusive to the story of friendship and acceptance between Adam and Maya. How they both overcame their personal situations? There is also a boyfriend of the mother, a cardboard antagonist we’ve seen before in other movies. Would have been better to have two loving family characters. The mother being pregnant is another subplot that subtracts more than adds. We’re supposed to feel that Adam’s mom is trading him out for a “normal” child, I think, but that plot thread is unnecessary and distracting.
After the first third which threatened to put us both to sleep, the movie became more interesting, particularly the interplay between Adam and Maya. They are very likable characters and we want something to build between them.
This is one of those movies that has characters and a story with potential but doesn’t execute in a very entertaining and interesting way. The acting is decent, the sounds (other than the annoying voice) and camera work is OK, it’s just how the scenes are compiled and unfold for the audience that are not very exciting. At times when I should have been more interested in Adam beating his medical condition with meds or through sheer willpower, I was more engaged by Maya’s struggles and conflicts. I don’t think that was the desired goal of the film.
It’s refreshing to see stories about mental illness and how to cope and overcome, but this could have been done in a more compelling, dramatic and entertaining way. I’m not suggesting it had to go the horror route, but it would have been more exciting if the visions and characters had some sort of tie-in to what was actually happening to Adam. Even if that’s not the way the illness works, a little bit of creative embellishment would have helped.
Neither Kara or I enjoyed or were entertained by this movie and, therefore, do not recommend.
Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️½