Starring Charlie Plummer, Debuts Trailer, Ahead of Locarno Premiere

A Perfect Day for Caribou, which stars Lean on Pete’s Charlie Plummer, has debuted its trailer, ahead of its world premiere in Locarno Film Festival’s Concorso Cineasti del Presente.

Jeff Rutherford’s feature debut, Plummer and Jeb Berrier play an estranged son and father, respectively, who spend the day ambling around a cemetery, wandering the wilderness, searching for family, and stumbling through disharmony and heartache.

The film is presented in 4:3 aspect ratio, shot in black and white by DoP Alfonso Herrera Salcedo, who has won several awards for his work, including the 2018 Kodak Cinematography Vision Award, the Golden Tadpole in the Student Competition at Camerimage in 2019 for Lefty/Righty, and the Bisato d’Oro for best cinematography at the Venice Film Festival in 2021 for Joaquín del Paso’s The Hole in the Fence.

A Perfect Day for Caribou tells the story of just one day in the life of Herman, Nate and Ralph. Herman (Berrier) is an alcoholic with a depleted appetite for life. Nate (Plummer) is an anxious young father reckoning with his past so he might move on with his life, and his son Ralph, a misunderstood child, off in his own world.

The film starts early one morning with Herman speaking into a tape recorder, dictating a final message to his estranged son, Nate. As he rambles on about the last caribou herd in North America, his cellphone rings – it’s Nate, all these years later. That afternoon, they meet up at a cemetery on the edge of an unknown town. Nate brings his own boy along, a six year old named Ralph, who carelessly plays and runs around in the distance as Herman and Nate stumble through 10 years worth of conversation.

Distracted by their own business, they don’t initially notice Ralph run off, out of sight. Eventually, they do, and they take off into the rural abyss in search of him. They navigate hills and valleys, forests and open plains. All the while, in an uneven and awkward pattern, they attempt to connect with one another. They have until nightfall to find Ralph, and for Herman, today might be his last. For Nate, it could be the start of a new beginning.

In a statement, Rutherford said: ’A Perfect Day for Caribou’ is a film about history. It’s a film about the heaviness of that history. It’s a film about love and family. It’s odd and magical and linear yet dreamy. It was inspired by some of my own stories, stories I’ve borrowed from friends growing up in Kansas, and a little bit by Samuel Beckett, Yasujirō Ozu, and Jim Jarmusch.

The film is produced by Kyra Bailey, Joseph Longo and Rutherford for Fred Senior Films.

Charlie Plummer and Taylor Russell Illuminate a Thoughtful Teen Movie This adaptation has much on its mind as it engages with the generation of mental health awareness, though it sometimes opts for easy feeling. The 1999 Drew Barrymore romcom Never Been Kissed is referenced multiple times in Words on Bathroom Walls, with the older film cast in a rosy Proustian glow that may come as a jolt to any viewers who remember the 20th century. Fully 21st-century teens Adam (Charlie Plummer) and Maya (Taylor Russell) describe it as a classic and a cinematic masterpiece with equal parts affection and irony, believing themselves a little smarter than its cozy high-school movie clichés. So does Words on Bathroom Walls, in ways that sometimes pay off strikingly.

A teen movie for the generation of mental health awareness, this slick, well-acted adaptation of Julia Walton’s popular YA novel complicates typical coming-of-age stakes and obstacles with the disorienting realities of the hero’s diagnosed schizophrenia, giving unusual, anxious treatment to the genre’s standard set pieces — from dreamy prom night to rousing graduation speech — along the way.

Thor Freudenthal’s film isn’t quite as clear of Hollywood formula as it may think: It’s still one of those teen movies where even social outcasts are more beautiful, clear-skinned and on-cue witty than real life usually permits them to be, where adults come through with wise, perfectly scripted counsel in the nick of time, and where the admirable depiction of a complex, frightening psychological condition is still leavened by simpler love-conquers-all sentiment. If Words on Bathroom Walls hits you in the heart in the end — thanks in no small measure to the radiant gifts of Plummer and Russell — there’s a sheen of glibness to be peeled away first. In his first feature assignment since 2013’s Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Freudenthal hasn’t quite the directorial delicacy to elevate proceedings to Perks of Being a Wallflower levels of intimacy and personality, but Words should find a devoted young following — if not in theaters, where it’s scheduled to open on Friday, then eventually on VOD.

Nick Naveda’s suitably wordy screenplay honors its literary source with extensive reliance on the wisecracking voiceover of Adam — presented as confessions to a psychiatrist we never see. A smart, socially awkward high school senior, he’s just looking to survive the year, whereupon he can enrol in culinary school to realize his lifelong dream of becoming a Michelin-grade chef. It’s a plan made less straightforward by the unpredictable mental breaks and blackouts caused by his schizophrenia, manifested on screen as surges of swirling, spidery black smoke that swamp everyday scenes. The inner voices that plague him, meanwhile, appear as three distinct personalities — new-agey good fairy Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), skeezy lothario Joaquin (Devon Bostick) and a surly unnamed bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian) — who offer him conflicting advice at moments of crisis. It’s a device that might seem a bit tidy for the interior chaos it represents, but Words on Bathroom Walls does offer a more evolved understanding of schizophrenia from the lurid split-personality melodramas of yore.

Adam is offered a fresh start at a strict Catholic academy — on condition that he sticks to the latest trial medication of many sought by his loving, desperate mom Beth (Molly Parker), and share his psychiatric evaluations with austere principal Sister Catherine (Beth Grant). A warm light in this unwelcoming new environment comes in the form of valedictorian student Maya, who turns out to be a different kind of misfit in this privileged, conformist institution: When she agrees to tutor Adam to bring his flailing grades up to scratch, it doesn’t take long for teenage nature to take its course. Yet even as they grow closer, Adam can’t bring himself to tell Maya about his schizophrenia, while upheaval at home — via the seemingly frosty presence of his new stepdad Paul (an excellent Walton Goggins) — sets his mental health even more waywardly off course.

While Plummer’s charismatic performance adeptly expands and contracts with his character’s wildly shifting moods and states of consciousness, Russell — the standout player in Trey Edward Shults’ recent Waves — works electric wonders with a more thinly conceived character. The kind of 16-going-on-36 good girl who could easily become an aggravating fantasy figure, she’s given a bit of behind-the-eyes darkness in Russell’s bright but wounded interpretation: Here’s a girl who works visibly hard at her perfection. If you can see early on where things are headed between them, at least Plummer and Russell’s natural connection makes sense of the inevitable.

The occasional surprises in Words on Bathroom Walls emerge not from what happens, but how: Even as it follows the general timeline of many a senior-year drama, its emotional peaks and valleys don’t always land as we’ve been led to expect. A promposal is played not as a gushy moment of joy but an evasive anticlimax, while a heartfelt public confessional seemingly builds to an explosion of applause that, it turns out, never comes. Freudenthal and Naveda subvert movie-world logic in these and other ways, though their film isn’t wholly located in our world either: Michael Goi’s high-gloss lensing and The Chainsmokers’ ever-present, on-trend score contribute to a heightened reality in which everyone is the most vivid, articulate version of themselves possible — down to Andy Garcia’s patient, empathetic, too-good-to-be-true priest Father Patrick, who becomes for Adam the private sounding board that therapy doesn’t provide.