review//TOUCHED WITH FIRE

Grade: C+

TOUCHED WITH FIRE
Directed by Paul Dalio
Starring Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti

Sometimes small movies can make a lot of sound, like current awards favorites Room and Brooklyn. Sometimes even smaller films can live on to become minor cult favorites in and of themselves, like Me and You and Everyone We Know. With Paul Dalio's quiet effort, Touched with Fire, small and stark performances highlight a film that can't quite catch its footing. Perhaps it needs more time to simmer before it's truly judged.

Katie Holmes, somewhat pushing the envelope of her typecast, stereotypical roles, plays Carla, a beautiful, young poet tormented by her feelings and inner demons. Trying to trace her own life to the point when her sickness set in, she accidentally checks herself into a home for those with similar mental disorders. While there, she meets and grows to connect with Marco (Luke Kirby), an eccentric rhymer destined to find a way to connect with his best self and the idea of life away from this mundane life on planet Earth. Their conditions worsening based on their similar, but separate, journeys through life lead them down a path of love.

Befitting a non-traditional love story, Touched with Fire has a lot of important ground to cover and director Dalio chooses some unique ways in which to cover them, most of which is in the connection between the experiences of our two main characters and the similar, artistic passions of some of the greatest artists to come before them. 

While there are many fantastical elements doing their best to showcase manic depression as more than a disorder, but a willfully controlled way of life for some, the film falters in its ability to hold itself together as a complete picture.

Holmes and Kirby are both well cast as the two lovelorn patients mustering up the courage to capture life. The quiet nature in which Holmes' Carla begins to unravel has markings of a subtle brilliance never before seen by the actress. It'd be great to see the exposure from this film help Holmes tackle more serious roles in the future. Newcomer Kirby is the highlight of the film, serving as a somewhat revelation in how he commands the screen and gives Marco little nuances that make him a unique, well-rounded character.

Films exploring diseases, disorders, or disabilities have a fine line to walk before crossing into cliche. Luckily, Touched with Fire never takes those fateful steps, but it does linger on the side of being almost too safe. While it isn't quite a masterpiece, it is an honest creation by Dalio. It'll be interesting to see what he offers next.

Rating: R
Runtime: 1h 50min

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