WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film starts with high school senior Adam Petrizelli (Charlie Plummer) talking to a psychiatrist (but framed as though he is addressing the audience). He explains that his father left him and his mother Beth (Molly Parker), so he used cooking as a good coping mechanism, as well as a means to help his mother. She has since begun dating another man, Paul (Walton Goggins), whom Adam has not quite taken so well to. He makes plans to go to culinary school in the fall.
During school one day, Adam sees a hippie girl, Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), in the hallways, and he appears to be the only one who sees her. He goes to chemistry class when he starts to experience something unusual. He hears voices, sees what looks like a black cloud surrounding the class, and Rebecca speaking to him. Everything in the room appears to him as though it is floating, and Rebecca tells him they need to go. In the chaos, Adam accidentally knocks over a vial of acidic chemical that burns his partner’s arm. He falls to the ground and experiences his first psychotic break, while the school security guard has to hold him down.
Adam is diagnosed with schizophrenia and is expelled from school, with many of the other kids thinking he’s a freak. He has started undergoing a medical trial to combat his condition, but he continues to hear voices – most notably a deep, threatening voice – and sees three frequent visions – Rebecca, who acts as the positive voice, Joaquin (Devon Bostick), the “horny best friend”, and a man in a jumpsuit known only as The Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian), who always carries a bat and appears whenever he thinks Adam is feeling threatened. Paul has also hidden the knives in the house for safety.
Beth and Paul take Adam to transfer to St. Agatha’s Catholic School. They meet Sister Catherine (Beth Grant) for an interview, which Adam sees as the whole room being on fire. Adam is accepted to the school, but his condition is not made known immediately. After the interview, Adam goes to the bathroom. He finds the school’s valedictorian, Maya Arnaz (Taylor Russell), making a secret transaction with another student, Ted (Drew Scheid), as she has been tutoring him in secret. They see Adam, and Rebecca and Joaquin appear to comment on Maya as she approaches Adam. She just tells Adam not to say anything about what he saw, and he agrees.
Adam begins his time at St. Agatha’s, but he already has trouble focusing on his work. Maya later approaches him again, and the visions can see that he is attracted to her. She explains that she helps the other students as a side hustle, keeping it secret from the staff. After she leaves, Adam takes his meds to keep the visions from continuing to pester him.
At home, Adam is annoyed that his mom and Paul have given him a plastic knife to use during dinner. He expresses clear disdain toward Paul, while also hearing the deep voice saying that he is not the son his mom wanted.
With his grades already failing into his second week of school, Adam seeks Maya out for tutoring help. She even meets Beth and Paul to make it legitimate, and they agree to pay her to help Adam. He takes Maya to see his room where they exchange banter and she samples some of his cooking before they get to work in studying. Beth later drives her home.
Adam’s grades improve, and as he continues to take the pills, he keeps the visions at bay. He even gets back to cooking, which makes Beth happy. He also visits Father Perez (Andy Garcia) at the school for confession, even though he doesn’t consider himself a religious person. One morning, Adam wakes up to peace and quiet, thinking things are turning around for the better. To celebrate his improvement, he invites Maya to hang out, which she accepts. While they are out, one of the bullies from Adam’s old school recognizes him with his friends and they call him “Straitjacket”. When the bully mocks Adam and tries to touch Maya, she slaps him hard across the face before he and the others just leave. When Maya asks Adam what that was about, he only tells her that he got expelled from his last school over a fight.
Sister Catherine catches Maya trying to meet with Ted again, and she forces her to drop the tutoring gig. Adam tries to hang out with her again and later goes to try and find her at her house and comes to a poorer neighborhood where he meets her father and two younger brothers. Adam cooks them dinner, but when Maya comes home, she thinks he’s doing it out of charity and lashes out at him. After he apologizes, Maya tells him how she got caught and is worried about making extra money. He promises to help keep her as his tutor and still get paid.
Maya brings Adam to a big kitchen to test out his cooking. His food proves too spicy for Maya, but when he tries it, he thinks it’s fine. It turns out that a side effect of the pill affects his taste, as well as a number of other unpleasant things (anal leakage, for one). This prompts Adam to start throwing away the pills into the front yard as Beth thinks he is still taking them. Making things harder is that Beth and Paul announce that they are having a baby. Adam hears the deep voice express insecurity over a new kid that might be more “normal”, as well as seeing his mom appear as a distorted image. This also makes the visions come back to annoy him. It almost causes him to have another psychotic break at school, but he walks out even as Maya follows and tries to find out what’s wrong.
Charlie tries to make it up to Maya by taking her to an outdoor screening of her favorite movie, “Never Been Kissed”. Towards the end, Rebecca and Joaquin try to encourage Adam to make his move, but the deep voice starts to prey on his insecurity. He inadvertently grabs Maya’s hand, but she wants to know what is going on with him. He admits to having insecurity over his mom having another kid with Paul, but after he apologizes, he asks Maya to prom, even though she’s against the idea of it. She accepts, and they have their first kiss. His work gets so much better that he writes an essay that is accepted to be read at graduation.
Adam finds Paul writing an email and finds it suspicious. When he gets to school, Sister Catherine tells him that they learned about his condition and the incident at his last school, and instead of an expulsion, they are just suspending him temporarily. Adam thinks Paul sent them this in the email and he lashes out at him. Suspension also means he can’t go to prom, but he defies everyone’s orders and goes anyway. He picks Taylor up and is amazed by how she looks, but even as they dance and try to have a good time, Adam is plagued by the deep voice, as well as Sister Catherine finding him and trying to kick him out. As things start to blur around him, Adam pushes the nun to the ground and runs away. He runs to the top bleachers and falls over the ledge when he sees the black cloud surrounding him.
Adam is taken to the hospital and wakes up to see Beth and Paul. Maya soon shows up, but Adam becomes too overwhelmed by the presence of the visions, so he starts to yell at Rebecca and The Bodyguard to go away, then yelling at everyone to leave as he breaks down. He is later expelled from St. Agatha’s and placed in a psych ward. Father Perez visits him despite an earlier encounter where Adam was rude to him when he tried to offer advice. After Perez says that he was not aware of what Adam was struggling with, Adam apologizes for his behavior, and he agrees to join Perez in prayer.
Beth visits Adam in the hospital and gives him a printed copy of the email that Paul sent to St. Agatha’s. Contrary to what Adam thought, Paul was expressing his support for his stepson and thought suspending him was cruel, saying that they must show more care for Adam’s condition. Realizing how much Paul cares about him, Adam runs to catch up with him and Beth, and he hugs Paul for the first time, making it clear that he will be better in accepting him as a new father figure.
On graduation day, Beth and Paul take Adam to the ceremony, where, despite Sister Catherine’s attempt to speak up, Father Perez shows support for Adam. The deep voice black cloud try to get Adam, but he gathers the courage to address the student body calmly. He recites his essay in which he discusses his condition and battle with schizophrenia, but that he knows that he will not be defined by his illness. He leaves the auditorium (with only Rebecca cheering him on, unfortunately), but Maya runs to catch up to him afterwards. Adam apologizes for not telling her the truth from the beginning, and they express their love for each other. Joaquin then encourages Adam to kiss her, which he does.
Adam gets accepted to the culinary school he wanted to go to, and he becomes a good big brother to Beth and Paul’s kid. Paul also shows more dedication to Adam, even seeming to notice when Adam is hearing the voices in the closet. The film closes with Adam attending the culinary school with his own personal set of knives, ready to brave the path ahead.
Adam Petrazelli is an aspiring chef that suffers from schizophrenia, causing him to hear voices and see visions, the three most recurring being Rebecca (hippie angel on the shoulder type), Joaquin (horny devil on shoulder type), and The Bodyguard (there whenever Adam feels uncomfortable). He transfers to a new school and meets Maya, the valedictorian who tutors on the side. They strike up a friendship that slowly turns into a romance, but Adam doesn't tell Maya about his condition.
After Adam stops taking his medication due to some side effects that hinder his cooking, among other things, he sees the visions more and lashes out at people like his mother's boyfriend Paul (after learning they are having a baby, making him insecure), and the school's priest Father Perez. To make things worse, he gets suspended after the school learns of a previous incident at his old school where he experienced his first psychotic break, as well as the fact that the school was not initially made aware of his condition. Adam defies the school by going to prom since Maya already agreed to go with him, but he has another psychotic break where he pushes a nun and ends up hurting himself.
Adam is put in a psych ward and slowly starts reconnecting with those he raged out at. He learns from his mom that Paul was trying to keep him in school and for them to take his condition more into consideration, and Adam apologizes to Paul for his behavior. Adam later goes to graduation after Father Perez approves of it, and Adam gives a speech where he owns up to his condition but chooses not to be defined by it. He apologizes to Maya for not telling her the truth, and they resume their relationship.
Adam becomes a good big brother to his mom's new kid, and he gets into the culinary school of his dreams.