Words On Bathroom Walls


mental illness theme, moderate sex references, infrequent strong language

A teenage boy’s mental illness is exacerbated by the emotional turmoil of school, family life and his burgeoning feelings for a classmate in this touching US romantic drama.

Key classification issue: mental health

Based on Julia Walton’s novel of the same name, Words On Bathroom Walls explores protagonist Adam’s schizophrenia. He is given medication to help his condition, but finds it affects his ability to taste and is seemingly ruinous for his ambitions to be a chef. When he stops taking his medication, however, his auditory and visual hallucinations become increasingly prolonged and distressing. His visions take the form of different people, as well as a spectral black shape that whispers invasive and aversive thoughts, including brief suicide ideation.

The original team of Compliance Officers who viewed the film were split over which age rating to assign it, given it’s troubling themes, including suicide, affecting a young teen character. The film was therefore viewed by senior staff, who felt it was containable at 12A given the value in how the film explains Adam’s mental illness in a compassionate and accessible manner that young audiences would understand and empathise with.

To ensure the 12A was appropriate, the film was also shown to our Advisory Panel for Children’s Viewing (APCV), made up of doctors, teachers, academics and other experts in child welfare, as well as our Youth Panel, made up of young people aged 15-21. Both panels supported the 12A, and felt the film was a sensitive portrait of mental illness with value for 12-14 year olds.

We also tested the film in our latest guidelines research, showing it to various focus groups including teens, teachers and parents, who positively approved of the 12A rating.

We classified the film 12A for mental illness theme, moderate sex references, infrequent strong language.