“Words on Bathroom Walls”: A Beautiful and Educational Film


Adam and Maya spend a brief moment together at prom. Source: Roadside Attractions

Paige Reddick, Photojounalist

Since the pandemic hit, watching new movies has been a unique experience. Instead of spending a night at the theater, snacking on buttery popcorn and sweet candy, people have been watching newly released films from their homes. With theaters recently opening back up, the film Words on Bathroom Walls provided me not only with a wonderful experience at the theater but an even more valuable lesson.


This film, released on August 21, 2020, stars actor Charlie Plummer and actress Taylor Russell. Plummer brilliantly takes on the character of Adam Petrizelli, a 17-year-old high school senior who has a passion for cooking. However, Adam is suffering from schizophrenia. Feeling a sense of animosity towards his mother’s boyfriend named Paul, Adam is not the happiest in his home life. After experiencing an episode in a science lab at his public high school, resulting in the injury of a friend, Adam is forced to transfer halfway through his senior year after his expulsion. The aftermath of this episode results in Beth, Adam’s mother who is played by Molly Parker, struggling to find new specialists and medications to treat Adam’s illness. At the time that Adam begins a promising medication, he begins attendance at a prestigious Catholic high school—a far cry from his schooling experiences in the past. This new medication proves to be effective, stopping his hallucinations of personified emotions. 


His first day at St. Agatha’s Catholic High School includes Adam meeting Maya Arnez. Maya, an impressive student who is crowned Valedictorian of the class, runs a clandestine business of writing her peers’ papers for payment in order to pay the bills for her struggling father. Attempting to stay afloat academically, Adam reaches out to Maya for paid tutoring sessions. Guided by relationship advice from the high school priest, Father Patrick, the tutoring sessions result in Adam feeling an initial sense of normalcy, as his medication allows him to get to know Maya without the distractions of his illness. As Maya tutors and Adam cooks, the pair begin to feel a connection. The blissfulness is soon lost as Adam begins experiencing severe side effects from his medication, affecting his ability to hold conversations, perform well in school, and most importantly, cook. 


Behind Beth’s back, Adam quits taking his medication, allowing his hallucinations to return. His condition is worsened as Paul and Beth reveal that they are expecting a baby: Adam’s believed replacement. Despite this impending news, he and Maya continue to grow in their relationship, but all is stopped as Adam is caught by Beth for secretly stopping his medication. His punishment is being barred from prom, despite already asking Maya to be his date. Refusing to let her down, he attempts to attend prom, but his illness takes over. Adam reaches his breaking point, revealing his true self. How does Maya react to seeing Adam in his entirety? How does Adam recover from this mental break? How do Paul and Beth cater to their son’s needs? Well, I’d really love for you to all find out. 


After watching this film, I feel that I have been opened up to the struggles and realities of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Adam mentions multiple times throughout the movie that individuals with mental illness are often forgotten by society or viewed as a “lost cause.” However, I believe that this movie did an incredible job of shedding light on the details of schizophrenia, creating awareness and education for this illness. I now have a better understanding of this disorder. Adam’s story stressed the need for understanding, acceptance, and love for all members of society who are suffering from mental illnesses. Blake Hardison (12) recalls his “appreciation for this movie” as it “educated him on a topic [he] was not familiar with.” I encourage all you Mustangs to take the time to watch Words on Bathroom Walls to not only experience a heartwarming story but to also educate yourselves on the realities of mental disorders, fostering a new perspective of the illnesses that affect numerous members of our society.