Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip to the Movies reviews two films this week!
Words on Bathroom Walls (in theaters)
Charlie Plummer proves he is a young star on the rise for greatness in Words on Bathroom Walls. Plummer stars as Adam, a high school student who battles schizophrenia. The voices in his head continue to mount, so he who is moved to a Catholic school as part of his treatment plan on top of an experimental prescription drug program. There he meets his new tutor Mia, played by Taylor Russell. Mia is a force just like him and is that person he needs to challenge him and help him grow and accept himself.
-Starring: Charlie Plummer, Taylor Russell, Andy Garcia, Beth Grant, Walton Goggins, and Molly Parker.
-Adapted from the YA novel by Julia Wanton.
-It’s one of two YA movies opening this weekend with Chemical Hearts being the other. Words on Bathroom Walls stands out to me as the better of the two as it shies away from the standard tropes. To me Adam’s schizophrenia and self-acceptance took center stage.
-We see the voices in his head personified on screen with actors appearing as those voices including Annasophia Robb, Devon Bostick, and Lobo Sebastian. It’s a smart choice to give context to what’s happening inside Adam’s mind. The film works to de-stigmatize mental illness and asks its audience to not treat it as taboo or something that needs to be hidden.
-While his mother, played Molly Parker, is supportive and tries her best, Adam needs other people in his life like Mia or the school priest. Andy Garcia is wonderful as Father Patrick. He’s comforting and non-judgmental toward Adam. Adam opens up to him and says “It’s nice to be heard, not just observed.”
-The film never makes Adam a one-treatment fits all sort of patient. It’s not trying to push pills or therapy sessions as if that’s the only thing that will help him. It’s a combination of factors, time spent with loved ones, and time spent in the kitchen with his passion for cooking that is the help Adam needs.
-The film has a well-rounded cast without a weak link. Charlie Plummer and Taylor Russell work well together and it’s great to see their careers continue to take off as they give open and honest performances with very complicated characters.
-If teens and their parents watch this movie, it can hopefully open up some honest conversations.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
CHEMICAL HEARTS (Amazon Prime)
It’s Henry’s senior year and he’s tasked with being the editor for the school newspaper. His life changes after being paired with Grace on editorial duties. She’s a transfer student new to the school and is played by Riverdale’s Lili Reinhart. Grace is shy, closed off, and has a hard time opening up. It’s love at first sight for Henry whose relationship with Grace ebbs and flows given the heartbreak and tragedy she’s dealt with in a past relationship.
-Chemical Hearts is directed by Richard Tanne who also wrote the adaption from the novel “Our Chemical Hearts” by Krystal Sutherland. I haven’t read this specific book, but I knew from Henry’s introductory voice over how it was generally going to play out.
-This is a YA page to screen adaptation through and through. It’s their senior year and the emotions and pressures of being a teen are at their highest. We frequently find our protagonists involved in creative endeavors that allow them to express their teen angst and self-revelations in their work. The school newspaper is that outlet as Henry and Grace work toward that final issue which will be the capsule into their final year.
-It’s theme ‘teenage limbo’ accurately describes where we find our two leads. At one point Grace states “Being young is so painful that it’s too much to deal with” The film attempts to remind its teen audience that we should talk about our issues instead of hiding them. Add in love and a broken heart and the chemical reactions in our brain make it hard accept anyone new into our lives.
-Like many YA movies, we get a fun soundtrack as music plays a factor in their budding romance. At times Henry faulters trying to fight the right words and actions to simply show Grace he cares about her.
-Austin Abrams and Lili Reinhart are approachable and likeable leads for this film. Abrams has a Timothee Chalamet vibe to him and Lili Reinhart does an admirable job of removing any sense of her Riverdale character of Betty Cooper in her performance as Grace. Reinhardt is one of the producers on the film, and I’m curious to see what future projects she takes on behind the camera.
-Chemical Hearts has good intentions thanks to its leads but I would have liked a little more time spent with Henry’s friends. There’s a half-told same-sex relationship that could be explored more.
-It follows the standard YA checklist including a scene with Henry caught in the rain at a pivotal moment. The teen audience will fall these characters, but it doesn’t extend outside its narrow scope.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS