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Title: Touched with Fire

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:75

I have to say that I have conflicted feelings about “Touched with Fire”. I suffer from a few mild illness that have required me to be on medication, and I personally know several friends and family members who suffer from Bi-polar disorder (both strong cases and weaker cases) and I feel that Director/writer/score writer Paul Dalio seems to have missed the mark just a bit. Too much time is spent in the film trying to blur the lines between brilliance and art. Clarity and disease. It can be meandering and random, with bits that seem totally out of place with the rest of the film, while others are beautifully shot and sometimes poignantly accurate in regards to the issues that people who have Bi-polar suffer with on a daily basis. That’s not to say that as a film itself that “Touched with Fire” is a failure. In fact it’s almost hypnotic to watch many times as you watch Marco and Carlo ride the highs of the manic waves that come and go throughout their lives. Sadly, that enjoyment is tempered as I watched Paul Dalio and Spike Lee miss their intended target more times than many.

Carla (Katie Holmes) is an emerging poet who suffers from Bi-polar disorder. A disorder that manifested in her life right around the time of college. Unfortunately she’s been off her meds for a while and has slowly started to slip back under the ocean that is her own mind. Checking herself into a mental facility voluntarily she meets another patient named Marco (Luke Kirby) who suffers from the same illness. Marco is also a poet, which is where the attraction is started, and he also has been suffering for many years. The problem is that he is not only off his meds (a common problem with Bi-polar patients as they feel like they don’t need them anymore once their moods are stabilized, but once they go off they crash right back down and start the cycle again) but he also has no desire to take them. The pair start a whirlwind romance that takes them to new heights, but those new heights actually are nothing but the throes of a manic maelstrom, each person feeding off of the other person’s burning passion.

After they are released from the mental institution, both people seek each other out and try to continue their romance in the real world. This turns out to be much harder than anticipated as they try to balance their illness together. Marco reluctantly agrees to continue his medication, but only after Carla almost dies in the middle of the wilderness after the two ran off to live off the grid. However, as much as they try, their own individual problems are fanned hotter and hotter with the other person around. As much as they don’t want to admit it, their presence with each other is actually hampering their own personal grown. The exact opposite of what their therapy and goals were striving for.

Watching “Touched with Fire” is have to say that they got the manic stages extremely accurately (although they sadly didn’t touch on the depressive stages of Bi-polar as much as I would have liked). The random bursts of thoughts. The idea that they are the smartest person in the room, and the incredible paranoia. I’ve personally dealt with family members who have gone off their meds and that is rather accurate. The problems in the film stem from the fact that Spike Lee and Paul Dalio tried to blur the lines between brilliance and illness a bit too much. The film felt overly artsy, and I felt a distinct sense of romanticizing this terrible illness. Marco is so grating to be around for a 107 minute movie that it really was touch to sympathize with him. I completely understand where he’s coming from in his own mind, and I TRULY felt for the pair, but the way he was written it was hard to really empathize. His character is almost one dimensional as all you can see from him for an hour and 46 minutes was his manic side. No effort was put into see the other facets of the illness. The parents and the doctors are completely one dimensional, and Carla is the only one that you can see a true difference in her mood. You can actually see when she’s been on her meds for a while vs when she’s off, and also her disease shows her up and down the spectrum just a little bit.

The first two acts were actually rather impressive at times, and I truly was interested to see how the film ended. Unfortunately the third act stumbles a bit, as they try to cram too much into a short period of time. We’re meant to understand that the two of them can’t be together as they fan each other’s illness, but that part is rushed with only a few minutes to spare in the movie and we’re privy to a short 5 minute piece that explains this after a one year time jump that comes out of the blue. I enjoyed Marco and Carla together, despite the grating personality of Marco, and the first portion of the movie was really really engaging, but I did suffer some frustration with the final act that keeps me (along with the over artistic stereotyping of Bi-polar people) really recommending the film.


Rated R for language, a disturbing image, brief sexuality and drug use

Video :4stars:
Lionsgate’s 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks exactly how one would expect from a modern day digital drama. Colors are warm and vibrant throughout, with strong hints of honey and dark blue in the grading. Fine detailing is present all around, with little wisps of Katie Holmes’ hair showing up visibly, as well as the dark circles and stress line under Marco’s eyes. Long shots, such as when the two are out in the wilderness, look magnificent and brilliantly photographed. While the image is great in the detail department, there still is a thin layer of softness over the entire image that keeps the clarity from ever being razor sharp. Black levels are quite good, and only once or twice did I notice any issues with crush seeping into the picture. The scope image shows off some very nice contrast levels, which allow for natural skin tones to reveal themselves, resulting in an overall pleasing image all around.

Audio :4stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track for “Touched with Fire” is also just what one would expect from the genre. The film gives a lot of emphasis to the dialog between the characters, but there is also a melodic and hypnotic score that accompanies and brings out the life in the rear channels. The dynamic range between the dialog and the score seemed a bit off though. There were several times where I had to crank the volume up 5 decibels or so just to hear Marco and Carla whispering too each other, and then the next moment the music would be too powerful. Even the spoken dialog sometimes felt a bit drowned out by the music. Fidelity is great, though, as you can hear each stringed instrument and each note of the drum beats as the music winds its way through the solemn film. LFE is tight and powerful, usually coming in only as an accompaniment for the score, to accentuate the roaring of a waterfall out in the wilderness.

Extras :2.5stars:

• “The Making of Touched with Fire” Featurette
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Dalio and Producer/Director of Photography Kristina Nikolova
• “A Conversation with Paul Dalio and Dr. Kay Jamison” Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• Photo Gallery

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Touched with Fire” is a sweet and emotionally draining film, but sadly one that falls just a little flat in the third act, causing the viewer to feel a bit let down with how little the ending was shown. Too much came too fast and by the time you realized just what was going on, there is that longing to find out just HOW this turn of events came to be. I ultimately enjoyed the film, but the flaws are distinct and unmistakable despite the really good parts of the experience. Audio and video are on par with a modern day drama, and the extras are surprisingly robust for such a niche film. Recommended as a solid rental.

Additional Information:

Starring: Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Bruce Altman
Directed by: Paul Dalio
Written by: Paul Dalio
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Runtime: 107 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 7th 2016

Buy Touched with Fire On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

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