Review | ‘Words on Bathroom Walls’ sparks discussion on mental illness

Words on Bathroom Walls | Dir: Thor Freudenthal | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Based on the popular Young Adult novel by Julia Walton and directed by German director Thor Freudenthal who directed The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this PG13 -rated film is moving and cinematically fantastic depiction of a teenager dealing with a mental illness.

Adam (Charlie Plummer) is an American high school senior who loves to prepare meals for his single mother and has dreams of going to culinary school. The addition of step father Paul (Walton Goggins) and the announcement that his mother Beth (Molly Parker) is expecting another child, contribute to a full-on melt down brought on by hallucinations in the chemistry lab.

Expelled from school and diagnosed with schizophrenia, Paul finds himself at a Catholic school where he struggles to keep his mental illness a secret. Medication has managed to quieten the voices in his head, which manifest as flesh-and-blood characters, but it has side-effects.

Falling for fellow student Maya (Taylor Russell) wasn’t part of the plan but he needed a tutor to help with his grades. Also, ending up in a confessional box talking to Father Patrick (Andy Garcia) was certainly not what he would have done, but he desperately needed help to navigate his new world.

The film is aimed at a young-adult audience and it deals with some important issues. The coming-of-age story takes the stigma out of mental illness but also shows the effect that it has on the other people in Adam’s life. The younger members of the audience might find some of the images scary and the more grown-up people will find the ending a bit mushy, but it is a rewarding film.

I brought along my very own nearly 14-year-old to evaluate the film and it was so ‘awesome’ that she went to see it again with one of her friends. This is certainly the film to take a teen to and have some great conversations afterwards about mental illness, acceptance and surviving teenagehood.

Lezly Herbert

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