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  • Writer's pictureClara Oyanguren

Words On Bathroom Walls

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

Over the weekend, while scrolling through HBO MAX, I finally found a movie I had been longing to see. I first came across this movie on my regular visit to Barnes and Noble on my last trip to the States. I saw the book which the movie is based on: Words On Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton, and picked it up. After reading the back cover, I knew I would enjoy it and so had been looking for it ever since.

The adaptation stars Charlie Plummer, Taylor Russell, Walton Goggins, Molly Parker, and other talented artists.

The story follows Adam, a teenager recently diagnosed with schizophrenia during his senior year of high school, who struggles to keep it a secret from his classmates. After an accident, Adam is forced to move schools where he meets Maya. Adam and Maya become friends, but when Maya starts tutoring him, it all changes.

The movie portrays Adams's journey of finding the right medication; we often see him suffering from side effects of the medication or the medication having no effect at all. A struggle all too common for people taking medication for mental illness. We’re also privy to his delusions: Rebecca, Joaquin, and a bodyguard. The movie gives us an insight into his head, showing us his interactions with his delusions and with family and friends.

The movie is beautifully made; however, going in I was scared. I thought, should I be watching this? Will this be too strong? I thought I would be overwhelmed by the serious and raw topics of the film. I thought that I would be too scared. I thought it was going to be like any other Hollywood mental health film, but after watching it, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was sad, but in a good and necessary way.

While the movie has no dramatic plot twist, it captivates you and pulls you in. During those 1 hour and 50 minutes, I was never bored; instead, I was always thinking about the characters and connecting to the movie.

While the performances were incredible and masterful, especially Charlie Plummer’s performance, there was one thing that made me instantly like it and stuck with me after the movie was done: its portrayal of mental health. In the entertainment industry, movies, books, and shows about mental health are often romanticized, cutting out all of the nuances and intricacies of mental illness to get more views and higher ratings. This movie, however, didn't do that; ‌romance takes second place while mental health takes number one. It didn't beat around the bush, either. Instead, it focused on the reality of mental health.

The reality is that mental health is hard, messy, and comes with highs and lows.

This movie doesn't shy away from that message; instead, it focuses on it. We see Adam struggling to accept it, struggling to take his medication. He also doesn't tell anyone about his diagnosis because of fear of what people will think. The movie doesn't shy away from the societal stigma and judgment that comes with having a mental illness. The last thing you want when dealing with mental health is to have people judge or make fun of you. Adam overcomes this in the end and accepts his mental illness when he accepts his medication. He learns that he is not his illness, but that he is so much more than that. Yes, he has an illness, but he’s not the illness.

If you take away anything from this article, let it be this: you are your own person, and your mental illness, whatever it is, does not define you. There are so many other adjectives that describe you. You are not your illness. You are not alone. Let's break the stigma surrounding mental health and instead create safe places for us to deal with our mental health. I encourage you to reach out to your friends and ask them if they're ok.

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