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Words On Bathroom Walls Has Mental Health On The Mind

Words On Bathroom Walls

Starring Charlie Plummer, Taylor Russell

Directed  by  Thor Freudenthal

Rating: ***

To make  a film on a protagonist  suffering from schizophrenia and to  keep the tone  light without falling into the trap of  trivializing the  issue is  not an easy  feat. Words On  Bathroom Walls  manages that  feat with its feet  firmly on  the ground. It’s  a celebration  of  mental  illness  without  becoming  health-porn, one of those sickeningly smug stories on  sick  people .

In Hindi  cinema we  have  a good parallel  in  Hrishikesh  Mukherjee’s Anand where the protagonist  (played so  memorably  by Rajesh  Khanna) can smile in  the face of death. Young Adam(Charlie  Plummer) is not  dying but he smiles a lot  even if it feels close to death when  he has one of those  awful delusional attacks. He  hears  voices constantly and he sees people no one  else can.

All this could have been grotesquely exploitative in lesser hands.  Director  Thor Freudenthal weaves a mellow,disarming  yarn  out of  a  grim mental condition. We enter Adam’s mind hear the  voices that  only he hears, sees the  three friends(played with  unsettling  insouciance  by  AnnaSophia Robb,  Devon Bostick and  Lobo Sebastain representing three  different  states of Adam’s delusional state) that one he can see. We  see and hear  with Adam and yet we  are able to remain  outside  his experience  and able to understand  what he is going through.

 The film also encircles Adam’s vital relationship with his  beleaguered  mother(Molly Parker,distraught  yet restrained)  who is trying her  best to figure out how to cope with her  son’s growing illness and  his troubled relationship with the mother’s boyfriend, a well-meaning baffled outsider trying to  acquire the  position of  an insider.

 But above  all this, Words  On  Bathroom Walls is a love story, the  delicately drawn encounters  between Adam and the spirited  Hispanic Maya(Taylor Russell) are to die for.Although this is not her  film,  Taylor Russell shines  as  Maya who has some secrets of  her own that she conceals from Adam   just as he conceals  his illness from her. That he can hide his schizophrenia  from her  for so long is  hard to believe.

However  young Christopher Plummer’s performance as a  wannabe chef  whose mind is trapped in a terrifyingly tormenting terrain of  self-flagellation and  guilt, makes  one  forget  the film’s  minor failings and  improbable  plot  twists.Plummer plunges into Adam’s mind , shares  his character’s  anxieties  and terror. It  is  a performance  that doesn’t beckon with bravado.Plummer simply pulls  us in.

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