When Adam was a kid, there were hopes that his vision issues were due to glaucoma or something treatable like that. However, in time his visions became people, Rebecca, Joaquin, and a set of Bodyguards, as well as a voice. Now, when it comes to Rebecca, she’s cool. Consider Rebecca like that weird best friend you had that you were never romantically interested in, yet you are so close that everyone thinks you go together. Joaquin? He is that dude who either is having sex all the time or talks about it so much he seems either obsessed or a pro. Then, with the Bodyguard, and his crew, mainly they protect Adam’s ego.
But that last entity? That’s the trouble maker, that is the voice that makes people who have schizophrenia scared, isolated, and ostracized. It’s that voice that nearly robs Adam of everything, yet also presented him a gift.
You see, to drown out that voice, and sometimes the others, Adam discovered cooking calms him. However, all it took was one incident at school to lead to Adam’s mom, Beth, to go into a tailspin about ways to help Adam, and when you add in Beth’s boyfriend Paul, who Adam thinks is out to get him, the negative voice amplifies.
And to put some icing on the cake, when Adam finds himself in a new school, he draws the attention of a girl Maya, a brilliant young woman, yet there is the question of whether she could like, handle, never mind love, someone like him? A person who can’t be cured and while pills exist to abate his issues, the side effects can be too much.
Thus leaving Adam in the worst kind of bind. Take medication to fit other people’s normal, yet lose himself in the process, or don’t take pills and deal with your own sense of normal, which isn’t just horrific for others, but sometimes yourself as well.
Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs
“It’s nice to be heard and not just observed.” — Adam
“People can’t wait to make you someone else’s problem.” — Adam
Adam (Charlie Plummer)
For years now, Adam has wished his original diagnosis of just having vision problems was what’s wrong, and not having three rather friendly voices/odd people in his life, and one which sounds like the voice of anxiety and depression. Yet, thanks to the sound of chopping food, frying, and the aroma of cooking, he found a way to drown everything out. But as the stress of life increases, so does the difficulty of managing his condition, especially when he feels like he isn’t getting the support he wants or needs.
Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb)
One of Adam’s hallucinations that he sees describes as a girl you’d find at Coachella, who is the nicest of his hallucinations. You could even say she is the angel on his shoulder.
Joaquin (Devon Bostick)
In Adam’s mind, Joaquin is like the horny best friend from a 90s movie, and he pretty much fits the bill. However, with this being PG-13, while he may look at a porn mag, generally speaking, Joaquin is harmless and often as helpful as Rebecca, but with a male point of view.
The Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian)
When it comes to the people in Adam’s head, one could submit they represent different emotions manifested into physical personas. With Rebecca, that is love, Joaquin is lust, and The Bodyguard could be seen as anger. Mind you, this isn’t to say all the Bodyguard does is rage. More so, he takes on the task of protecting Adam from his dark thoughts and anyone who can trigger them. He and his two boys that sometimes are added for some assistance.
Beth (Molly Parker)
Adam’s mother, who we’re never told what she does for a living, but does spend all her spare time trying to find a cure or some means for her son to live the life she hopes for him.
Paul (Walton Goggins)
Beth’s new boyfriend, and one of the first she has really been with for a long term relationship. Adam doesn’t like him, since he still is dealing with the abandonment of his father, and considering Paul comes at one of the worst times for Adam mentally, it leads to Adam assuming Paul is pitting his mom against him and trying to get him committed.
Maya (Taylor Russell)
The likely valedictorian of St. Agatha’s Catholic School who isn’t trying to, or able to, just rest on her various awards or the various clubs she heads. Alongside this, Maya works, mainly because she has to, and this is primarily due to the situation she has at home, which she is slightly embarrassed of.
Father Patrick (Andy Garcia)
Despite not being religious, Father Patrick, and confession in extension, becomes an outlet for Adam after learning his therapist and mom speak. However, as time goes on, Father Patrick grows to be far more than a soundboard for Adam and evolves into something more.
It Seems Sensitive To Those With Schizophrenia
When it comes to chemical imbalances and disorders, too often the focus is on the fear others will have and the instability of the person. All the while, it seems like the writer ignores that they are portraying what actual people go through and not a fictional character like Freddy Kreuger or Chucky. With Words on Bathroom Walls, things are different.
Perhaps the most important way is that, while it is acknowledged how people can be afraid of Adam, he never loses his humanity. He is still this boy in his late teens with a strong interest in culinary, who is clearly reeling over the loss of his father, and heavily relies on his mother for a sense of normalcy.
Also, the film doesn’t glaze over or romanticize anything. As noted below, Maya isn’t made to be someone who is there to make it seem it doesn’t require work and a bountiful of love to be with someone who sometimes will struggle. Not to forget, as Adam’s quotes above hint to, the movie doesn’t avoid the personal horrors someone with schizophrenia may go through. Be it questioning the intentions of everyone, especially when they mean limiting the person diagnosed, or how the lack of help leads to not being able to get a diploma, a job, and have independence.
All of this together allows you both the ability to understand what someone may go through, without you feeling like, as you would with many of the young adult movies like this, that the end result is supposed to be some form of overwhelming sympathy.
The Comic Relief In The Majority of Adam’s Voices
Okay, maybe comic relief isn’t the best way to put it, but you can see that Rebecca, Joaquin, and the Bodyguard are clearly there to lighten the mood. Rebecca, as she guides Adam, advocates for honesty, and tries to help him with Maya, basically is Adam’s best friend. Then with Joaquin, for those who like Robert Sheehan, of Misfits and Umbrella Academy fame, he is a less over the top and far less jaded version of him.
Though it might be the Bodyguard who causes the most laughs. Primarily since, anytime Adam is prepping to hear something he may not like, the Bodyguard is always ready to hit someone with a bat. Making it a bit of a running gag as the film goes on.
Getting Beth’s Side of Things
While this is Adam’s story, it is also important to understand Beth’s struggle in how to be a parent who is trying to both be supportive yet also is struggling with a sense of being helpless. For no parent is really prepared for a child who is not normal, and if they aren’t normal, there is hope it’s because they are extraordinary in a lucrative field. No one really preps you though for them being unable to walk, blind, deaf, or having a diagnosis that doesn’t have a cure, and the treatment can make your kid irritable and miserable.
So with seeing Beth struggle, yet her hardship not consume the story, you get just the right dosage of looking from the outside in when it comes to Adam.
Maya Is Made Out To Be Her Own Person
It can sometimes feel, when we see films like this, that there is a love interest for good intentions. Meaning, they are meant to show that being diagnosed with this or that doesn’t mean you’ll be alone, are unlovable, and often the girl who alleviates the situation is thinly written. That isn’t the case for Maya.
When it comes to Maya, between being one of the smartest at her school, her home life, her sarcasm, and personality, she is a whole ass person. I’d even say there is enough going on for you to believe she is the main character of her own movie.
Which I can’t understate how important that is, for it pushes the idea that Adam is in her life because she wants him to be. Not because he stalked her, and the writer decides to brush that off and make it be cute. That action, because Adam does stalk her, is addressed and forgiven because there are genuinely feelings that have been built up and not because Maya was destined for Adam and has no choice in the matter.
Despite Being Nearly Two Hours, It Doesn’t Feel That Long
It has been a long time since we have sat for two hours and not moved to go to the kitchen, bathroom, or get distracted while watching a movie. Never mind, while there are safety precautions and equipment, the theater we went to had the same old chairs that don’t feel like they were made for long movies.
Yet, we never got bored or antsy. The pacing was good, dramatic moments never came so frequently that we built up a tolerance or felt overwhelmed, and even when it comes to Rebecca and the rest, they were used sparingly. Making it so you get that rare balance of everything you’d need as a viewer to maintain your attention.
In the film, Adam ends up in Catholic school, and with his therapist talking to his mom, he finds solace in having confession with Father Patrick. Now, with Adam going to a Catholic school, it is only natural for religion to play a role in the film, and considering Adam is somewhere between an atheist and agnostic, it leads to some push back when it comes to Father Patrick. But, what we will say is that the way Father Patrick is written gives you one of the best religious figures in a film.
Why? Because he recognizes why people need him as a religious figure and God and for those who may not want or believe in either, he knows how to step back from his role and transform his faith to not be overbearing yet still guide him. Which, considering Adam’s struggles, while he doesn’t convert by the end of the film, you can see if there was any animosity at God, it likely was lessened by having someone like Father Patrick walk the walk as much as he talks the talk.
Words on Bathroom Walls is everything we like about movies and more. It gives you a taste of the human experience which feels foreign to you, approaches it from different angles, yet never loses sight that there is a certain responsibility that comes with telling anyone’s story. For even if a story is specific, once shared, it becomes common, and in representing one, unfortunately, you sometimes might represent many if not all.
Hence the positive label and recommendation, Words on Bathroom Walls will stimulate your emotions, push you to further your understanding, and leave you both feeling entertained yet also pushed to be more and perhaps do more. For if there is one thing the film ultimately wants from you, it is to be willing and able to support someone. Not just in the grand ways, but sometimes just recognizing the small things and helping them nip that in the bud.
While Beth finds a prescription pill that does silence the voices and stops the visions, both good and bad for Adam, the side effects are a lot to bear. For one, they take away his sense of taste, perhaps smell, and give him muscle tremors. And while cooking was his escape from the voices, originally, it became his love. So losing his ability to cook the way he has gained the skills to, that is without a recipe, was a lot to bear. Add in growing closer and closer to Maya and struggling to hide this major part of himself, things begin to breakdown.
First, Adam stops taking his pills, then the voice comes, and with that comes an outburst that gets him suspending, nearly overdosing, and fights with Maya, his mom, and his mom’s boyfriend Paul, who Adam has believed had it out for him for ages. Yet, the truth is, Paul has been one of his biggest advocates, and despite Adam’s fears, his mom having a new child wasn’t him being replaced, and despite her verbalizing her hardships, she doesn’t love him any less.
Then with Maya, while him diminishing their friendship and relationship to needing money to support her family hurt, she forgives him since she knows he didn’t mean it. However, this doesn’t dissipate the anger of him not telling her his truth and allowing her to choose whether to be with him or not. For in him pushing her away and making the choice for her, that was insulting. But despite getting a taste of what it will mean to love Adam, she does so anyway since, as she tells us repeatedly, she doesn’t do things halfway.
If there was a sequel, it could focus on whether Adam’s new sibling is diagnosed with anything, his journey towards independence, and dealing with Maya getting accepted to Duke and him working and trying to support himself as an adult.
Father Patrick - 83%
Despite Being Nearly Two Hours, It Doesn't Feel That Long - 86%
Maya Is Made Out To Be Her Own Person - 88%
Getting Beth's Side of Things - 84%
The Comic Relief In The Majority of Adam's Voices - 87%
It Seems Sensitive To Those With Schizophrenia - 90%
Words on Bathroom Walls will stimulate your emotions, push you to further your understanding, and leave you both feeling entertained yet also pushed to be more and perhaps do more.