Words on Bathroom Walls | FOX 5 San Diego

The only explanation for me liking this movie is that we’ve been quarantined and the movie theatres are closed. It has so many things wrong with it, yet I was still on board. I’m guessing that’s because when kids have mental illness, I feel bad for them. That’s probably why I loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower (although it wouldn’t explain why I didn’t like It’s Kind of a Funny Story). Because at the end of the day, you still need enough going on in the story that works. This has a couple that has chemistry. Romantic scenes that seem romantic. And their ace in the whole — Andy Garcia as a caring priest. 

I’m sure the Julia Walton novel this is based on, is one of those YA books that usually make over $100 million at the box office. Thor Freudenthal gave us a movie that would have easily done well in theatres. 

Charlie Plummer, who was so great in Lean on Pete (and acted with Christopher Plummer in All The Money In The World, although they’re not related), plays Adam. He is showing signs of schizophrenia, which has him seeing and hearing things. My first eye roll came when thinking about how signs of schizophrenia don’t usually manifest until the early 20s. But when we see the cast of characters that show up in his visions, it’s rather amusing, and you’re willing to give it a pass. They’re like the angry cousins of the characters in Inside Out. The folks in his head consist of a tough, gang member with a baseball bat at the ready, sometimes chompin’ a cigar. There’s a good-looking lothario who sports an open bathrobe more than Charlie Rose or Harvey Weinstein. And there’s a woman who is a New Age hippie who always wants to look at the bright side of things. Seeing that character made me wonder why it is when we hear of a schizophrenic killing someone because they heard a voice in their head tell them to — why is it that schizophrenics never hear a voice in their head that tells them to mow their neighbors yard, or leave someone a boutique of flowers? It always seems to be that baseball bat dude that takes over. But I digress.

The more realistic version of schizophrenia is shown, too as a black mist bellows into the room, with a voice whispering things in Adam’s head. It makes him angry and feeling worthless. It seemed like a more realistic and less cutesy way, to show this mental illness.

An incident in a science lab gets Adam expelled. Lucky for him, his new school has Maya (Taylor Russell of Waves and Escape Room). She’s smart, cute, and seems to like him.

Molly Parker (Deadwood), who starred with Russell in Lost in Space, is his caring mom who’s trying her best, but it’s tough when she gets a boyfriend. He’s played by terrific actor Walton Goggins (side note: strange that two “Walton’s” were involved in this; there should have been a spot for San Diego basketball legend Bill Walton. Again, I digress). Walton’s character has the perfect face for this, because we’re always thinking there’s a little bit of evil there and that he will come between the boy and his mom. It makes the story arc with him a lot more enjoyable as we watch it develop.

Beth Grant plays a character she does often — a school administrator that doesn’t want to tolerate a single thing.

Since the new school Adam attends is a Catholic school, the intelligent priest (Andy Garcia), offers the boy words of advice and encouragement. This despite the fact that Adam tells him he’s not religious. It was so refreshing to see smartly written dialogue between those two. The kid isn’t over-the-top rude, and the priest doesn’t just spout off biblical passages, or isn’t overly hip. He’s the perfect amount of caring and cool, and his rather humanistic approach to dealing with the troubled boy seems believable. 

As enjoyable as my wife and I found this, it doesn’t mean it didn’t have things that drove us nuts (no pun intended). Playing a song while Adam is in the hospital, like this was some cheesy video, made it feel like a TV special. There were also those predictable moments (bullies that show up later in the movie). Yet because it did so much in an interesting way, we didn’t let those small moments ruin it for us.

They did a clever thing with glitches that happened when Adam took his medication, and how it affected the characters he saw.

There’s a terrific explanation about a kid with cancer and how everyone helps, but if somebody is a schizophrenic on the streets, nobody cares. 

There are humorous moments (at one point Adam says to Father Patrick, “I was starting to look forward to our ‘Good Will Hunting’ moment.”).

When I pointed out how interesting the Starry Night prom theme was, my wife speculated that they did that because of Van Gogh’s mental illness. If so, well-played, filmmakers. 

This gets 2 1/2 stars out of 5.

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