A little spin on an anecdotal YA tale makes for a fairly diverting adaptation given an unappetizing title.
In Words On Bathroom Walls (appearing on many movie screens this weekend) German helmsman Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Hotel For Dogs) works illness into ten romance. This time though, its paranoid schizophrenia drawn by Nick Naeveda from the novel by Julia Walton centering on high school senior transfer to Catholic St. Agatha’s Adam (Charlie Plummer) who lives with his unconditionally devoted mother Beth (Molly Parker). Adam isn’t too keen about live-in boyfriend Paul (Walton Goggins of Ant-Man and the Wasp).
A mental illness diagnosis for Adam who has culinary aplomb and aspirations which has eased things with his mom is put on a drug to combat the condition which she “has a good feeling about” in Freudenthal and Naeveda’s hands aspects of Adam’s personality come in the form of Joaquin (Devon Bostick), Rebecca (Anna Sophia Robb) and the Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian) where fear, hope and hormones respectively are part of a hallucinatory existence.
The central relationship has Adam becoming interested in Taylor Russell’s Maya (at first seen in what looks disconcerting with another student) who’ll be his math tutor at a reduced rate. The candid, bright Maya may not be so forthright as Adam discovers in a probing narrative with duress within life’s nuances ofter viable; especially from a sympathetic, truthful portrait by Plummer (Lean On Pete, All The Money in the World).
The more dramatic side of this seemingly familiar, if affecting depiction comes when the affliction takes more of hold from side effects and subsequent lack of weening of his meds. Russell’s heady, even imperious way here helps provide an interesting dynamic that Plummer uses to insinuate an underlying condition. As he tempers his value system around those in his orbit.
The production as polished enough in a middle-class milieu with occasionally unobtrusive GCI (like the music) to give a fuller picture of Adam. There is the case of thinning, dark smoke when it all becomes unnerving for him and the personification of eponymous notations.
Behind the laudable, rangy efforts of Plummer and Russell, Goggins isn’t that much of a lesser presence while Parker is a suitable material figure. It’s hard not to appreciate veteran Andy Garcia of City Island and Confidence as an avuncular, cheeky cleric during these “Words” which unfortunately may fail on deaf ears and eyes.