When a movie is titled Touched With Fire, you expect, well some fireworks of some sort. In this film, which sees Paul Dalio making his directorial debut, it seems the flames were doused a little too early and what we have been left with is the smoldering leftover of what could have been a great idea.

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Touched With Fire follows the lives of two extreme bi-polar patients, Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby). After spending several years on and off medication, struggling to come to terms with their disorder, they both land up in a medical facility where they fall in love and bring out each other’s intense manic state. This doesn’t go down too well with both their families or their doctors and they are left trying to fight for their love for one another when everyone else is set against them. And through all this, they need to also deal with their disorder and the changing mood swings that it induces.

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The film plays itself more as a demonstration of the extremes that bi-polar patients can go through, rather than telling a strong love story. The script, written by Dalio himself, goes at lengths to explain what the characters are feeling in their different stages and can even get quite philosophical at times, but this is also where it loses some of its magic, as it gets too bogged down by trying to be a medical textbook of the disorder instead. This despite the fact that throughout this push for medical accuracy, bi-polar is referred too often in the film as a disease, when it is actually a disorder. There is a big difference between the two, people. And getting it wrong in the movie is actually embarrassing.

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Dalio does his best to inject imagination into the film with some arty shots of nature to try and capture what the characters are feeling. It does give the film an arty feel, but perhaps also slows down the storytelling a bit. It’s also let down by problems with the script which are too big to patch over with creative direction.

The actors themselves do a solid job considering there isn’t much to work with. The leads do lack some chemistry, but for the most part get their portrayal of people with the disorder reasonably accurate. If they can be faulted, its perhaps for pushing a little too extreme into their performances, but at least its consistent throughout the movie.

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However, the biggest failure of the movie is its pacing. There is a great idea and story hidden in the movie. I just never felt immersed in it because too many scenes dragged on. The film’s constant need to explain the disorder also prevents a lot of opportunities for character development and although by the end of the film you get to know them quite well, you don’t really care too much about what they’re going through.

The film’s score (provided by Dalio again – he edited the film as well) certainly doesn’t help in this regard, as it relies on moments of playfulness, interspersed with sharp tones. The idea behind it is obviously to match the difference in the character’s moods, but is used at odd times which takes away from the emotions of its characters.

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As a whole, Touched With Fire can be seen as informative and even enlightening, but hardly entertaining. It tries too hard to be a work of art, but in the end suffers from trying to explain itself too much as well. The film is not too long, but even at 90 minutes of length, I can think of a lot of better things to be doing rather than watching the film. I would recommend this film if you want to learn more about the disorder, but not if you want to simply be entertained.

Touched With Fire is out now on DVD.

Last Updated: November 16, 2016

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