Words on Bathroom Walls (2020)
This film was suggested by a family member. We watched it on Netflix, last night. Personally, I got a lot of insight into the world of schizophrenia that I have only imagined up until now. This is brilliant.
The diyd diyd* that I’ve embedded into the title of this post is an acknowledgement of the problem an individual has when treating one’s condition with prescription medicine. Without the meds, the patient suffers from hallucinations, in this case both visual and audible. Adam can usually only cope by cooking up a storm in the kitchen. He wants to be a chef, someday, but that seems improbable once he’s diagnosed with schizophrenia. So he starts a course of treatment using a new drug. The noises diminish, the visions disappear, and for the first time in his life, he wakes up to peace and quiet, quite literally.
But here’s the rub: the pills are making him experience motor tremors in his hands and legs, and his natural talent for cooking with the correct balance of spices is impaired, so he decides to stop taking the drugs, but he forgets to tell anyone else (except his psychiatrist, you the viewer). He is suspended from school on the day of the school prom, but goes anyway, resulting in a full blown psychotic episode and he is rushed to hospital and strapped in a bed (for his own safety and for others’ peace of mind).
He’s been having some difficulties at home because his mother, who was always his safety net, is now living with a new man, and expecting a new baby. Adam doesn’t like his step-father. So, home is unsafe.
Throughout the film, he is accompanied by the visions of Rebecca (new age hippie), Joaquin (the best friend) and “The Bodyguard”, as well as a deep threatening voice.Wikipedia
His three psychic companions are there to help him survive. Rebecca is like a love guru, telling Adam how to woo Maya, his love interest. Joaquin is the perennial slacker who always advises Adam to take a chance at life. And the Bodyguard protects and warns Adam to get ‘outta here right now’ if things start to blow up. In reality, they may be projections of different sides to his personality, but sometimes their help is a hindrance, and Adam has to tell them all to be quiet because he needs to think.
The Voice is another matter completely. It undermines his confidence, constantly. This manifestation is the absent father’s voice in his head. When seen it is a dark rolling mist of bad spiritual vibration.
Adam’s mental health is constantly under attack. But it’s bad enough to hear threatening words: to actually see them written out on bathroom walls must be (literally) maddening. Such are the effects of schizophrenia.
In reality, we cannot truly know how it feels for someone else in their life until we walk a mile in their moccasins. This film gets us as close as possible to what it must be like for a teenager suffering from schizophrenia. Other ‘adult’ films have tried to show the same thing, to a lesser degree: The Number 23; Memento; and even that old black and white classic, The Snake Pit. But, in my opinion, they never got to the heart of the story: it’s a lonely world that the schizophrenic inhabits. We should remember that.
And the point that Adam makes during his graduation speech is so true: when a child is dying from cancer, everybody wants to rush to grant their last wish; but a child with schizophrenia is shunned.