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New Release Review (DVD) - TOUCHED WITH FIRE

A pair of psychiatric patients, both diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, form a close bond through their love of poetry.







Review by Emily Craig (@emillycraig)

Directed by: Paul Dalio

Starring: Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti, Griffin Dunne, Bruce Altman


Director Paul Dalia lives with Bipolar Disorder himself, so this is obviously a nod to his life and also everyone else that lives, or has lived with the condition. This is not a Hollywood romance, but an accurate portrayal of real relationships and struggles.


Touched With Fire is the directorial debut of screen writing student Paul Dalio; the film is about two psychiatric patients who share the same mental illness, Bipolar Disorder. Carla (Katie Holmes), who is a poet, breaks down one night after a terrible reading to a not so impressed audience. She then unintentionally signs herself into the psychiatric hospital she used to be a patient at. There she meets Marco (Luke Kirby), a fellow poet who is admitted into the hospital by his father after he discovered Marco with no heating and a hoard of junk in his home, believing he is from another planet. The two spend a lot of time together at the hospital, sharing their love for words and poetry, until they are separated by their doctor, who believes they have an unhealthy relationship.


On first look at the film, I thought it was going to be quite heavy and depressing, considering the subject matter. While it is quite hard hitting at times, the film doesn’t glamourise or dehumanise Bipolar patients. This film is unbiased; it shows the ups and downs of the illness and comes more form the point of view of how Carla and Marco feel about having the illness. Marco refers to many creative historic figures that apparently had Bipolar, such as Vincent van Gogh and Tchaikovsky. Marco feels that having the illness is more of a gift, one that benefits his creativity, and believes that without it he would lose his emotions and ability to create poems.


The idea that Bipolar enhances creativity is an interesting one, and not one that I’ve personally seen portrayed on screen. I like the way the film doesn’t put the main characters in a bad light which would put a negative spin on the illness. Director Paul Dalia lives with Bipolar Disorder himself, so this is obviously a nod to his life and also everyone else that lives, or has lived with the condition. I not only like the premise and the message that the film gives, but I also like how the story and the relationship between the two characters develops over time. This is not a Hollywood romance, but an accurate portrayal of real relationships and struggles.


There’s little negative I can say about Touched With Fire; some of the scenes are just stunning, especially those where Van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night is the main vision. The score is soft and delicate and fits the narrative beautifully. The only thing I will say is that the film is very on the nose about the link between Bipolar Disorder and famous artists; apart from a few references on the internet, there isn’t really that much evidence that all the names that are dropped in the end credits actually suffered with the disorder, as Bipolar hadn't even been diagnosed at the time many of them lived. Other than this tiny niggle, the performances are well acted and the chemistry between the two characters is undeniable, and is what brings the film together.

Touched With Fire is on DVD August 22nd.




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