The story of love is not unheard of in the movie world. Many have written about, there are genres dedicated to it. They can alternate between beautiful realism and cookie-cutter nonsense that is only meant to be cute. Writer and director Paul Dalio’s tale of two people falling in love is highlighted by the fact that they are both manic depressives, drawn to each other in a way that transcends the physical world they live in. This may sound utterly maniacal, but it is an appropriate descriptor for “Touched With Fire.”

Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby) both suffer from manic depression. They see the world as though touched with fire, akin to Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” painting and believe no one understands it in all its luminosity. The two stop taking their medication, landing them both in an institution. This is where they meet each other and begin to fall in love after a brief rough start.

Of course, their parents are concerned for the well being of their children, who have seemingly gone off the deep end. Marco’s father (Griffin Dunne) and Carla’s parents (Christine Lahti, Bruce Altman) try and keep the two away from each other because they don’t think their relationship is healthy. While the parents believe that they bring out the worst in each other and their individual influence on the other causes them to act up, Carla and Marco are convinced otherwise. They want their love to lead them to a fantastical place of freedom and creativity unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. It’s when Carla becomes pregnant that the two have to ground themselves in some semblance of reality.

The fact that “Touched With Fire” comes from a place of authenticity–Paul Dalio confesses he, too, is manic depressive–makes the film stand out all the more. It could easily be dismissed as unrealistic, but in terms of the behaviors of the lead characters, the film is very much in touch with reality and Dalio no doubt draws from his own real-life experiences. Commendable is the fact that Dalio decides to go the route of following Carla and Marco’s experiences through their own perspectives and not their parents’.

Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby really shine here. They are able to express and interpret their characters in ways that make sense and understandable even to an audience that may not comprehend the extent of their mental illness. Their characters, and the plot by extension, is complex and layered and the drama isn’t contrived. Dalio is sure to portray Dunne, Lahti, and Altman’s characters as concerned parents and not enemies of their children. It could have easily been portrayed this way, but all characters come from a sympathetic place.

Ultimately, Dalio’s real-life experiences lend authenticity to the plot and characters and helps to create a great sense of realism. Anchored by outstanding performances by Holmes and Kirby, “Touched With Fire” is a unique love story that doesn’t dismiss manic depression so much as it is used to enhance the story.

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Pretty Good

Anchored by outstanding performances by Holmes and Kirby, "Touched With Fire" is a unique love story that doesn't dismiss manic depression so much as it is used to enhance the story.

3.5star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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