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Words on Bathroom Walls (2020)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance | 21 August 2020 (USA)
2:31 | Trailer
Diagnosed with a mental illness halfway through his senior year of high school, a witty, introspective teen struggles to keep it a secret while falling in love with a brilliant classmate who inspires him to not be defined by his condition.


Thor Freudenthal


Nick Naveda (screenplay by), Julia Walton (based on the book by)
2,514 ( 312)





Cast overview, first billed only:
Charlie Plummer ... Adam
Andy Garcia ... Father Patrick
Taylor Russell ... Maya
AnnaSophia Robb ... Rebecca
Beth Grant ... Sister Catherine
Devon Bostick ... Joaquin
Lobo Sebastian ... Bodyguard
Molly Parker ... Beth
Walton Goggins ... Paul
Aaron Dominguez ... Todd
Reinaldo Faberlle ... Manuel
Jeris Donovan Jeris Donovan ... Woman
Iain Tucker ... Ahole Teenager
Sean Michael Weber ... Paramedic
Drew Scheid ... Ted


The story of witty and introspective Adam (Charlie Plummer), who appears to be your typical young adult - a little unkempt with raging hormones and excited about a future pursuing his dream of becoming a chef. Expelled halfway through his senior year following an incident in chemistry class, Adam is diagnosed with a mental illness. Sent to a Catholic academy to finish out his term, Adam has little hope of fitting in and just wants to keep his illness secret until he can enroll in culinary school. But when he meets outspoken and fiercely intelligent Maya (Taylor Russell), there is an instant soulful and comforting connection. As their romance deepens, she inspires him to open his heart and not be defined by his condition. Now, with the love and support of his girlfriend and family, Adam is hopeful for the very first time that he can see the light and triumph over the challenges that lie ahead. Written by Roadside Attractions

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


If You Can't Trust Your Mind, Trust Your Heart


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

PG-13 for mature thematic content involving mental illness, some sexual references, strong language and smoking | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina See more »


Near the ending of the film, Adam is placed on suicide watch at a mental hospital after attempting suicide. The writers show that the mother is unable to bring toothpicks in for a dish she is bringing to Adam. The room Adam is in, however, has clearly exposed electrical sockets and even an easily breakable ceramic lamp, none of which would be located in the room of someone on suicide watch. Patients generally are kept from electrocuting themselves or cutting themselves on broken glass. See more »


References Pale Blue Dot (2015) See more »


Written by Andrew Taggart, Emily Warren (as Emily Warren Schwartz) and Andrew Neely
Performed by The Chainsmokers (feat. Drew Love)
Published by Sony/ATV Allegro, Nice Hair Publishing, Prescription Songs (Ascap) / Havenwood House (Ascap)
Administered by Kobalt Songs Music Publishing (Ascap) and These Are Songs Of Pulse (Ascap)
Courtesy of Disruptor Records / Columbia Records, Drew Love appears courtesy of Warner Records
By Arrangement with Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Records
See more »

User Reviews

a new way of looking at it
21 August 2020 | by ferguson-6See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. Very little outside 'the norm' is required for teenagers to ostracize one of their own. Sometimes it's a haircut or a brand of shoes, or even some other minor detail that sets them apart. But when it's a mental illness, the tribe can be merciless. Director Thor Freudenthal (DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, 2010) takes on Julia Walton's 2017 novel, with a screenplay from Nick Naveda. The film features two rising young stars and addresses some of the challenges brought on by the uncertainties associated with a mental illness.

Charlie Plummer (so terrific in LEAN ON PETE, 2018) stars as Adam, a high school senior who has dealt with the challenges of undiagnosed mental health issues since he was quite young. His father abandoned the family years ago, and Adam's devoted mother (Molly Parker, "House of Cards") is not only patient and loving, but also committed to researching any possible treatment that would lead Adam to a better life. On the other hand, Adam and his mother's new live-in lover Paul (Walton Goggins) don't exactly see eye-to-eye on things, leading to more anxiety for Adam.

In an interesting and unique approach, director Freudenthal allows us to not only hear the voices Adam hears, but also see the hallucinations and visions he sees - three of whom are Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb, THE WAY WAY BACK), a sweet, hippie-ish optimist; The Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian), a cigar-chomping, bat swinging he-man; and Joaquin (Devon Bostick), an inappropriately horny 'best friend from a 90's move." On top of that, there is a black mist that periodically manifests, enveloping Adam and bringing on crippling fear and isolation. After a years-long stream of drug therapy, Adam is pronounced "treatment resistant" and diagnosed as schizophrenic. Adam's only mind-calming escape is when he's cooking. He knows his way around the kitchen and his goal is to attend Culinary School after graduation.

One day, Adam has a psychotic break during Chemistry class. He gets expelled, which jeopardizes his Culinary School dream. His mother gets him admitted to a Catholic School run by Sister Catherine (Beth Grant) at the same time he is accepted into an experimental drug trial. He's allowed to stay in school as long as he takes his meds and maintains his grades. It's here where he meets the dynamic Maya (Taylor Russell (WAVES, 2019). Maya is smart and ambitious and proud, and the two quickly form a bond - an interesting bond between two smart high school kids carrying their own burdens and holding their own secrets.

Sister Catherine is balancing the specific needs of Adam with her responsibility to the school, and then there is also prom and graduation to deal with. With the new drug, the voices and visions disappear, but Adam has some issues with the side effects. A desperate plea for help from Father Patrick (Andy Garcia), the school priest, provides a boost as Adam tells him, "It's nice to be listened to and not just observed." That line provides significant insight into what it's like to have this affliction, and that's really where the movie excels ... putting us in the shoes of a schizophrenic and allowing us to experience the good and bad moments. What can Adam trust? His eyes? His ears? His mind?

Adam and Maya are both trying to figure out who they are, at the same time learning what it really means to love someone. Adam refers to his illness as his "burgeoning insanity", and in fact, schizophrenia does have a history of accelerating over time once it strikes a young person. The movie succeeds in taking away some of the mystique of mental illness, by making it approachable and something we want to better understand. There is a visual reference to Van Gogh's "Starry Night" that might be a bit too "nail on the head", but Freudenthal's movie is profound and features two very talented young actors. The humanity beneath the surface of those society would rather pretend don't exist is effectively compared to those stricken with cancer ... those we would do anything for. I watched this film back-to-back with another teen-drama-romance new release entitled CHEMICAL HEARTS, and it's extremely rare to find two such thought-provoking films centered on a pair of high school students ... but quite a treat (although I believe all 4 actors are long past high school age).

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Release Date:

21 August 2020 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Words on Bathroom Walls See more »

Filming Locations:

North Carolina, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$432,968, 23 August 2020

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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