Coming from director Thor Freudenthal based on the novel from Julia Walton and Roadside Attractions, comes a film about the power of the mind with WORDS ON THE BATHROOM WALLS.
Adam (Charlie Plummer) is a young teen who is having a little bit of difficulty. Knowing that there is something not quite right, he tries to make his world work. When he and Mom Beth (Molly Parker) are faced with changes, he discovers that he is a budding chef! The excitement is short lived when the boyfriend Paul (Walton Coggins) arrives.
If that is not enough, all in one moment of unexpected event, Adam is diagnosed with schizophrenia and leaves school. Mom is trying to help and with a baby on the way even Paul tries to show Adam that things can work out, but he is not having it. Fighting against it are the three voices in his head of the extremely sweet and supportive Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), the laid-back Joaquin (Drew Scheid) and the bat bad boy The Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian).
With a chance to go to a new school, Adam must agree to take medications and work hard. A Catholic school and Head Mistress (Beth Grant) have agreed to work with Adam and he sees it as a new beginning. Not long after starting classes, he meets Maya (Taylor Russell), a strong, opinionated and unafraid valedictorian who does things her own unique way. Adam is intrigued and dedicates himself to taking his medication and taking stress off the family.
But something is happening with the medication that sets Adam on a fearful path as he even turns to Father Patrick (Andy Garcia) for guidance and banter. As things get more and more difficult, Adam cannot control the chaos in his head or in front of him as the life he dreamed of is slowly slipping away.
Plummer as Adam just made my jaw drop, what an absolute stunning performance. Listening to his tale of the illness and what his life was like as Adam is just the beginning of this remarkable role. This young actor shows Adam as a young man searching for a life that is meaningful and, in the process, gives us endearment of a character who is clearly self-aware, articulate and moving. I could not tear myself away from his performance.
Parker as Mom Beth is dealing with the breakup of the family and trying to find a happy medium between the life she is created with Adam and bringing in boyfriend Paul. Struggling with Adam’s diagnosis, she does what any mother would do – look for answers and a chance for her son. Parker gives her character the all-in feel, and I’m sure in the real world the “all in” might be overwhelming.
Coggins as Paul is dedicated to a life with Beth and is seen as the outsider as far as Adam is concerned. That is difficult enough but adding Adams mental state into the mix and there is mounting tensions. Coggins is patient but also protective of Beth, as would be expected. I have always been a Coggins fan because he is so diverse in the roles he chooses, and this particular part is all him.
Russell as Maya is a smart and fearless young woman who knows what she wants for her life. Adam is immediately taken with her because of those qualities and he soon discovers that we all wear our armor differently. Russell gives her role spunk and vulnerability and it is well done.
Robb as Rebecca is the perfect hippie cheerleader who is dedicated to Adam, even if she is only in his mind. Scheid as Joaquin is every bit a teenager in his attitude and his attire and he cracked me up a lot. Now, Sebastian is the strong bat toting type and if looks could kill he would not need the bat! All three of these actors had their own part to play within the part and it is stellar to watch.
Can we talk about Andy Garcia as Father Patrick? Just a mixture of hilarity, wit and religious tolerance one would have to have at a Catholic school to my way of thinking. Garcia gives his character a funny bone that I enjoyed and when it all comes out, he is the first to rally to Adam’s side. Not a big role but one that stood out for me.
Other cast include Drew Scheid as Ted, Evan Whitten as Ricky, Aaron Dominguez as Todd and Jared Bankens as Darkness.
Roadside Attractions has, since its found in 2003, grossed over $300M and garnered nineteen Academy Award nominations. They have had critical and commercial hits such as MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, BEN IS BACK, BEATRIZ AT DINNER, HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS, WINTER’S BONE and THE COVER as well as so many others. For more information of what Roadside Attractions has to offer please visit www.roadsideattractions.com.
This film rested on the shoulders of a very young Charlie Plummer. The subject matter of the film is very difficult so finding the right person to play the role was crucial. Producer Mickey Liddell said of casting Plummer, “I don’t think I would have wanted to make this film if we didn’t find the perfect Adam. There are so many levels and so many colors in these characters. I did not know what actor of that age could play him. We needed someone who could play the schizophrenia, the levity and the family dynamics as well as the romance and the banter.”
Plummer wrapped up all of those qualities into the character of Adam which, and I’ll keep saying it, had me from start to finish. He is stunning to watch as the story unfolds, becomes complicated as the dynamics shift and to see Adam’s journey come full circle into a reality everyone could embrace.
THE WORDS ON THE BATHROOM WALLS dives right into the issue of teen mental illness and does not harshly sugar coat the story line with ridiculousness. Instead, it reaches out and invites the viewer into a world that does not get seen or talked about much. The film takes its time to explore it in conjunction with family dynamics, outside relationships and the stigma that follows.
Author Julia Walton wrote WORDS ON THE BATHROOM WALLS after graduating college. Her next novel JUST OUR LUCK is the story of a Greek American boy dealing with anxiety and masculine norms all while struggling with an old family curse.
This film is one of the finest I have seen so far this year with an ensemble cast that creates a story that is wonderfully told. Adding in cinematography and a wonderful score and this film is charming, endearing and an emotional learning experience like no other.
In the end – if you cannot trust your mind then trust your heart!