By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the novel of the same name by Julia Walton, director Thor Freudenthal’s and screenwriter Nick Naveda’s film adaptation offers a mostly moving portrait of a teen struggling with mental illness and the people who love him that are determined to see him persevere. Actor Charlie Plummer stars as lead character Adam Petrazelli, a meek and kind young man afflicted with schizophrenia, a sometimes debilitating condition that causes both visual and auditory hallucinations. Having tried multiple medications with no successful results, Adam, at the behest of his mother Beth (Molly Parker) agrees to go through a trial period with an experimental new drug. Though this new drug finally offers him some efficacy, the side effects are way less than desirable. As Adam pursues a romantic relationship with his classmate Maya (Taylor Russell), he decides to stop taking the medication all together. This strategy, of course, backfires badly when Adams hallucinations start occurring again.
Director Freudenthal and writer Naveda do some exceptional work in giving audiences some vivid and surreal looks int o the mind of character Adam Petrazelli. I have not actually read the novel on which this film is based, so I can only attest to how creatively the hallucinations get presented in the movie. It is definitely a strange journey that ranges between amusing and disturbing. The film does a mostly good job of balancing the humor and the drama, but goes somewhat melodramatic or grandiose at times. That is definitely the film’s biggest weakness.
Regardless of this, the lead cast members perform quite well. Charlie Plummer brings a lovably sheepish and appropriately awkward charm to his turn as Adam Petrazelli. He certainly has the range to express the necessary emotions required by his character. Talented actress Taylor Russell first caught my attention in a remarkable movie titled Waves. I was really impressed with her presence and her ability to subtly express various feelings. As Adam’s formidable love interest Maya, Russell continues to prove her abilities as a charming and passionate performer.
The movie also features lovely work by Molly Parker, Walton Goggins, and Andy Garcia. Three particular actors, however, manage to steal the show quite often in the the film. These three talents star as hallucinations that represent different facets of Adam’s mind. AnnaSophia Robb, Devin Bostick, and Lobo Sebastian all perform exceptionally as Adam’s non-existent friends. Though it is a technique that has been utilized a lot in other movies, it’s one that works beautifully.
So, I would not be swayed by the fact that tthis movie is a teen romance based on a uoung adult novel. Words on Bathroom Walls has plenty of great things going for it in its favor. It is a film that will tap into a range of emotions, but might particularly resonate with peopke suffering from mental health disorders.