Combustible Celluloid
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With: Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti, Griffin Dunne, Bruce Altman, Alex Manette, Edward Gelbinovich, Daniel Gerroll, Patrick Byas, Genevieve Adams, Erick Abbate, James Lecesne, James Miles, Angela Pierce, Rob Leo Roy
Written by: Paul Dalio
Directed by: Paul Dalio
MPAA Rating: R for language, a disturbing image, brief sexuality and drug use
Running Time: 110
Date: 02/12/2016

Touched with Fire (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Manic Room

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The drama Touched with Fire attempts to be an earnest discussion of bipolar disorder, and it can be informative, but its message is muddled and indecisive, and everything hinges on a deeply unsympathetic male character.

Published poet Carla (Katie Holmes) finds it difficult to cope with her wild mood swings, and goes to the psychiatric hospital to read a report on her condition, and winds up checking herself in. Meanwhile, performance artist Marco (Luke Kirby) lands there after a manic episode concerning his father (Griffin Dunne). The pair connect instantly and bring each other to new manic highs, but they are separated and crash into depression.

After checking out, they wish to see each other again over the protests of Carla's mother (Christine Lahti). Things change when Carla becomes pregnant and the young couple agrees to moderate their moods with meds. But Marco's belief in the artistic purity of his condition makes him unpredictable.

It draws inspiration from Kay Redfield Jamison's non-fiction book, which argues that the greatest artists were bipolar, and that their manic highs caused extraordinary creativity. Writer/director Paul Dalio seems in awe of this idea (a closing credits crawl pays tribute to several artists), but at the same time, he seems to feel pressure to show the downside — the crippling depression — and to insert a message about being responsible and taking meds.

Dalio has a wonderful eye for intuitive, emotional compositions, and the lovely, tinkly music score helps. The actors are terrific: Katie Holmes anchors the movie with her sympathetic character, but unfortunately the Marco character projects anger and hatred at anyone who doesn't see eye-to-eye with him, which eventually wears thin.

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