Every now and then, I feel the need to slow down production of these reviews because it’s become my entire life. I figured that all I’d need to do is simply focus on the films I wanted to see rather than to watch a ton of these I probably never would have if I wasn’t a critic. Well, if I did that, I would have no doubt missed out on Words on Bathroom Walls, one of the few hidden gems of 2020 that sprung out of nowhere for me and I absolutely adored. This film is nearly impeccable. Let’s get crackin’!
This review is brought to you by the word of the day: Impeccable.
Free from fault or blame, AKA flawless.
Words on Bathroom Walls is a 2020 adaptation following around Adam as he learns of his affliction. As it turns out, he is a paranoid schizophrenic who has both auditory and visual hallucinations. He constantly hears voices and sees things that aren’t there, which leads to psychotic breaks. He strives to try a number of drugs, both traditional and trial, to find peace and quiet from the voices, and most importantly, normalcy – but sometimes, there is no happy medium, as Adam will soon realize.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of this movie. Schizophrenia, I feel like, is a very temperamental topic to approach in film, which is why you don’t normally see it. If you do see it, it’s almost always the stereotypical variation of it where the person who has it is absolutely crazy, violent, and most importantly, perceived as the “bad guy”. Don’t get too close to him, brothers and sisters, he’s crazy…he’s schizo. Words on Bathroom Walls approaches this like any other mental disability, that sure, he has these episodes that freak people out, but it also reiterates the fact that he’s negatively affected by this affliction more than he is destructive to others. He feels alone because nobody understands what he’s going through, and how can they? It’s a chemical imbalance to the brain that isn’t shared by many. This film goes the extra mile to show you Adam’s world through his eyes and ears. You hear those voices, you see these hallucinations that surround him and constantly manipulate his actions, and the feelings I got while watching all this was all over the place.
I felt sad that he was going through this alone, that these hallucinations he was having was manipulating his actions and causing harm to himself and others. I related to him as a human being who was going through something difficult and consistently impossible to overcome. I was mystified by the visuals of these hallucinations and sound mixing of these voices that surround him, and then close in and converge into one dark, demented voice that he constantly hears, discouraging his hope. I was blown away by Charlie Plummer’s acting in this role. I fully believed that they found an actor who either had schizophrenia himself, or was intimately familiar with it at any rate – because I downright believed it whenever he constantly felt cornered by his affliction. I felt that, even though it wasn’t needed, the side characters in this film were insanely well-crafted and developed. His love interest, Maya, starts out one way, ends another. His stepfather, Paul, starts one way, ends another. The priest he constantly talks to, Father Patrick, played by Andy Garcia, starts out one way, ends relatively the same, but the relationship and bond he sort of shares with Adam naturally grows. Everyone honestly does a great job in this film, and they all have substantial impact to the direction of the film. There’s not just these side characters that aren’t doing anything because they need to fill the screen or runtime. Everyone mostly has a vital role to play.
Past that, you also have the writing of the film, which as you could probably guess, is fantastic. It is a deeply meaningful film that gives a voice to a selective group of individuals that otherwise wouldn’t have one. I also think it’s relatively original because of that. The pacing in general is understandably incomplete based off how I score films, since you can fully understand everything, but as an audience member, you don’t always sense an upcoming ending. The film could technically go on forever showing you the things that Adam experiences, but what it does do by the end of this movie is come to a satisfactory climax and resolution. So, even though it doesn’t seem like it will get there, it does, and I honestly really enjoyed how it came together at the end. Actually, I enjoyed this movie so much that I would recommend others place it on their watch list at bare minimum, but I’d also suggest you put it in your Christmas wish list, too. You won’t regret it. This is a really great movie.
You’ll notice I didn’t really talk about anything negative because I don’t have anything negative to point out. At no point in my grading scale did any subcategory get zero points. Most got full, and a couple got half points for not specifically standing out as good or bad. Let’s go ahead and break down my final score for a second. From an unbiased, technical level, I think how they approached the various hallucinations associated with schizophrenia was really smart and respectful. What I am talking about here is certain visuals and sounds that mimic the things Adam experiences. I’m also talking about the unnecessary, but welcome character development for basically everyone in the movie. The score here is 92%, and as for my personal biased score, I felt for this guy. I really did. Beyond the fancy visuals and sound mixing that absolutely blew me away, I liked this guy as a human being struggling with something impossible while feeling alone. I thought Charlie Plummer did a fantastic job pulling off this challenging role. This biased score is 96%. Averaging out the two scores together, we come to the final rating of 94%, 94 out of 100 possible stars, or an A letter grade.
Honestly, this is one of my highest-scored films all year. 2020 has been something else, filled to the brim with one anxiety attack after the next. Who would’ve guessed that a film centered on a paranoid schizophrenic would be the light at the end of a long, stressful tunnel? It really is a hidden gem. Guys, let me know your thoughts on Words on Bathroom Walls in the comments section down below. Have you seen it, are you looking forward to it? And as usual, until next time…