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Words on Bathroom Walls Movie Review - Worthy and Well-Acted

A teen’s difficult battle with mental illness told with dark humor.

Reviewed by on Aug 20, 2020
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Read Kidzworld’s review of Words on Bathroom Walls, the heartfelt tale of a teen’s struggle to fit in despite a difficult mental illness. Can Adam control his demons long enough to fall in love?

Words on Bathroom Walls is the story of Adam (Charlie Plummer), who, on the surface, is a normal scruffy teen, hoping for acceptance and excited about a future pursuing his dream of becoming a chef. He is expelled hallway through his senior year for a violent incident. When his mental illness is diagnosed, he keeps it secret at his new school. Adam finds a soul connection with Maya (Taylor Russell), a smart, outspoken fellow student. Can he open his heart? Will she be okay with his secret? Does he really have a future?

Words on Bathroom Walls Trailer



Adam and Mom

Adam, in his psychiatrist’s office, tells us about his living situation. He and his mom live together since his dad left and he is into cooking bigtime. He’s good at it. A new guy, Paul (Walton Goggins) moved in with mom so Adam is gone a lot to avoid him. He shows us why he was expelled from his last high school. Adam is Schizophrenic, having a brain disease that makes him hear voices and even see imaginary companions and other visions. During an attack, he is out of touch with reality. After causing chaos in chem lab and injuring another student, he was kicked out. Now, in a new school, he hopes to live a more normal life.

New Chance

When mom (Molly Parker) finds a new drug trial, she puts Adam on it. So far no change but Adam learns to ignore what he sees around him; everything from fires to his imaginary “friends”. He must make good grades and stay on meds to attend his new school. If he doesn’t get his high school diploma, he can’t attend culinary school and become a chef. Adam meets Maya, the valedictorian of the class who also sells essays and does people’s homework on the side for money. She finds Adam to be socially challenged but likes him. He likes her too.

Adam thinks he sees a fireAdam thinks he sees a fireCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Failing Grades

Adam agrees to take the new pills and feels that Paul is trying to sabotage him. His grades fall and mom hires Maya as his tutor. Adam’s “people” keep butting in but he ignores them. He drops Maya off at her house; a real mansion.  The pills must work because he is feeling better. He learns that mom gets transcripts of all his psych sessions and feels violated. He talks to a priest (Andy Garcia) who gives him good advice. Adam and Maya start semi-dating.

Will Maya be a new love?Will Maya be a new love?Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

He tells her that he had to leave his old school for fighting. Maya gets busted for selling essays but isn’t kicked out. She stops tutoring Adam. Did she learn about him? He goes to her house but learns that she doesn’t live there.

An outdoor dateAn outdoor dateCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Her dad is a roofer and did their roof. He gets her address and goes to her small apartment where she lives with two little bros and her dad who is on work disability. Adam makes the family a meal. Maya comes home from a waitress job and is angry. Adam convinces her that he doesn’t care about her living situation.  


Adam gets tremors and can’t taste suddenly, he takes an essay test writing about his failure at the last school but he lies. Mom announces that she is pregnant. Freaked, Adam stops taking his pills and starts seeing visions and hearing things again, sometimes in class.

Can Adam graduate?Can Adam graduate?Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Maya worries about him but agrees to go to prom with him. Mom learns he has stopped taking his pills and is angry. He thinks Mom just wants a new life without him. It is learned at school that he has stopped taking his meds and he is suspended but none-the-less, he wins the essay contest. To mellow out before prom Adam takes a ton of pills.

Adam is afraid he will never be normalAdam is afraid he will never be normalCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Prom and Beyond

Adam meets Maya and they dance but he is woozy and sweating. Officials are mad because he is there when he is suspended. Adam sees visions and ends up falling from the rafters. He is taken to the hospital. Mom has told Maya about his illness. He is strapped down in the psych ward and can’t go home until he is better. He blames Paul for ratting to the principal about him. He makes Maya leave and becomes very depressed. It is graduation time. He doesn’t have a diploma and thus can’t go to culinary school. Did Paul rat him out or try to help him? Will Maya stick by him? Will he get his diploma? How will Adam change his life for the better?

Maya and Adam at the promMaya and Adam at the promCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Wrapping Up

Words on Bathroom Walls is based upon a novel and it packs it all. It is darkly funny, romantic, contains action and a ton of heart. All of the actors including those supporting like AnnaSophia Robb as one of Adam’s hallucinations, are excellent with Charlie Plumber, playing Adam, really standing out during darkly funny moments, times of deep despair and scenes of romance. You root for him all the way.

Maya comforts AdamMaya comforts AdamCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

The film takes all the moments that create teen angst and emotional challenge and ups the ante by giving the lead teen character a crippling mental disease.  At one point Charlie tells us “If you are mental, nobody wants to help. If you are a cancer kid, it’s the opposite”. Makes you think.

Adam's imaginary squadAdam's imaginary squadCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

From what I’ve studied, the portrayal of an extreme case of Schizophrenia is pretty accurate, especially from the POV of a teen. There are a few moments in the movie that don’t ring true but very few. This is very worthy and well-presented film. Well worth checking it out. We can award four stars.

Words on Bathroom Walls Movie Rating; 4

Words on Bathroom Walls Movie Review - Worthy and Well-ActedCourtesy of Roadside Attractions

Words on Bathroom Walls is in theaters August 19th.

Would You Understand?

If a fellow student had a mental challenge would you be sympathetic? Would you be kind? Do you struggle with mental or emotional problems? Let it all out here. Write a comment or blog it up on your Kidzworld profile page!