‘Touched With Fire’ is an artistically profound and passionate love story

Paul Dalios first feature film about two manic poets falling in love is as painful as it is sentimental.

photo via wikipedia.org under Creative Commons license

Paul Dalio’s first feature film about two manic poets falling in love is as painful as it is sentimental.

Paul Dalio has arrived with his first feature film and has definitely made his presence felt. Inspired loosely by the events of his own life and by a book of the same name, Touched With Fire is a love story about two manic depressive poets whose love is tested due to their illness.

Marco (Luke Kirby) and Carla (Katie Holmes) both find themselves stuck in a mental institution against their will. It’s obvious right from the start that they’re meant for each other. Their similarities and their creative ambitions bring them together and they begin to form a special bond. Unfortunately that bond is attributed to the fact that they both believe they are from a different planet, and they are put in separate rooms under the premise that they are unhealthy for each other and that they aggravate each other’s’ illnesses.

This clearly is not the case, as they begin to fall deeper and deeper into a state of depression as the distance between them increases. As fate would have it, they manage to reconnect and find each other. Due to the disapproval of their parents, the two abandon their families and pills and run away together. This story is truly heartbreaking and bittersweet. Though at times slightly on the cheesy end of the spectrum, Touched With Fire is purely original and painfully refreshing.

The portrayal of mental illness in this film is a very strange yet accurate one. All too often in the case of stories containing mental illness, the portrayal of the mentally ill characters are always overly-dramatic and purely for a cinematic effect. However, Dalio is a man speaking from experience. Also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Dalio is able to masterfully and meticulously show the wide range of emotions and experiences that can come with the illness. The way he is able to show how it feels to have an illness, yet make it seem like an advantage for Marco and Carla is pretty shocking to say the least. It makes you feel for the characters and even support their decisions at times, regardless of the knowledge that their decisions are insanely distant from reality.

Marco and Carla are convinced that their “disorder” has something to do with their artistic genius. In fact, the film really focuses on artistic geniuses of the past who have had mental illnesses, predominantly Vincent van Gogh. Art has a strong presence in this movie. In fact, it would be fair to say that van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is its own character in the film, making an appearance in almost every scene and connecting the two characters in mysterious and intimate ways.

The performances by the two leads are also quite impressive, especially Kirby. It’s always a pleasant surprise to go into a movie not knowing an actor and to leave completely spellbound by his performance. This was the case with Kirby, who is able to transition so well into these different angles of the same person. It is no easy task to pretend to be mentally ill and to simultaneously convince the audience that you’re still the same character throughout.

Films like this are rare, partly because there’s so much room for error and it’s risky territory. This movie was essentially an experiment. If not done right, this ambitious experiment could easily be just another cheesy young-adult drama. But when it’s done right, it can really stand out as an excellent creative experiment for a mature and thoughtful audience. Rarely are there such passionate and beautiful romance dramas such as Touched With Fire.

Rating: 7.7/10