Words on Bathroom Walls
- Emma Simmonds
- 3 November 2020
Eccentricity and earnestness combine agreeably in this likeable teen romance
If you're looking for a twist on the teen movie, Words on Bathroom Walls could be the answer. It's an eccentric yet still commercially entertaining story of negotiating serious mental illness from the German director of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Thor Freudenthal. The inclusion of apocalyptic visions and demonic voices adds an interesting dimension to what is otherwise quite a familiar high school coming-of-ager.
A terrific cast bring integrity to their roles as Charlie Plummer's Adam has his first, very public, psychotic break during his senior year. After being diagnosed with schizophrenia, he's forced to change school. His devoted mother Beth (Molly Parker) and seemingly less understanding stepfather Paul (Walton Goggins) manage to secure him a place at a Catholic establishment out of the district, run by Beth Grant's formidable Sister Catherine, where he meets and falls for bright spark Maya (Taylor Russell from Waves), who begins to tutor him. Andy Garcia pops up as a good-humoured and hirsute priest.
The film begins a little naffly, but quickly hits its stride with its appealing irreverence and ability to balance a lively, earnest look at adolescence with forays into the fantastical, as it takes us on a wild ride through Adam's unstable mind – which includes meeting his trio of imaginary friends (Lobo Sebastian's baseball bat-wielding Bodyguard, AnnaSophia Robb's dippy hippy Rebecca, and Devon Bostick's louche Joaquin).
If it continues to hit some cheesy beats (Maya is a feminism-spouting valedictorian but she secretly loves Never Been Kissed and is itching to be invited to prom), there's undeniable sweetness as a secretive and cynical pair of teens come nervously together. In some senses it's a very recognisable picture of a young man's journey toward self-acceptance; it might dabble in the dark side but ultimately delivers heavily on the feel-good, and you may well want to give in.
Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 6 Nov.