Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby star as two poets with bipolar disorders whose art is fueled by their emotional extremes. When they meet in a treatment facility, their chemistry is instant and intense, driving each other to new heights. They pursue their passion, which breaks outside the bounds of sanity and swings them from fantastical highs to tormented lows, until they ultimately must choose between sanity and love.
Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby) are manic depressive poets who meet in a psychiatric ward. 'Touched with Fire' desperately wants to be one of those earnest coming-of-age films where heart-wrenching anguish takes center stage. Yet, it never rises above the genre. It comes with all the expected clichés, and trips over itself to create drama.
Carla and Marco were never meant to meet, but their parents have them both committed. Carla's mother remembers a time before her daughter's illness. Carla can't recall the event that brought it on, even though her doctor insists something must have triggered it. Instead she releases her frustrations through poetry.
Marco is much more paranoid than Carla. He boasts of living “off the grid,” and doing away with all the man-made artifices society has to offer. His dad worries about him. Now that Marco's not taking his medication anymore his dad figures it's time to send him back to the ward for treatment.
What's so frustrating with 'Touched with Fire' is how blandly it treats its subjects. Marco and Carla detest each other at first. Then they warm to each other over poetry. They begin sneaking out late at night to build spaceships out of chairs and tinfoil; hypothesizing that they aren't from this world. Yeah, this sounds kind of interesting, right? Not really. It's done in such an over-the-top manner that it's hard to take them or their relationship seriously. It's one of those movies where if you're describing the acting you should probably spell it with a capital “A.”
It's sappy and overwrought. The screenplay takes some predictable turns. At least its proceedings seem to come without pretentious forethought attached. There's not a whole lot in the way of philosophizing by these two characters. Instead the movie focuses on whether they're OK for each other.
If two diagnosed manic depressives are willfully rejecting their medication is it OK for them to be together, even if they are adults? Is it incumbent upon their parents to step in and stop it? Essentially, are Carla and Marco in charge of their own lives or have they lost that fundamental right? These are all interesting questions that the film tries to answer. The answers, however, are ambiguous at best. Maybe the film wasn't trying to answer the questions, but to simply raise them. If that was the goal then kudos.
The fact remains though that 'Touched with Fire' is a tepid look at mental illness. It has some sobering parts and the chemistry between Holmes and Kirby is somewhat touching. Those aspects aren't enough to lift it out of the doldrums though. It feels very much like a slog halfway through it, and then it just keeps going.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Lionsgate release, which has been issued on a 25GB Blu-ray. There's also a Digital Copy included. That's it. This is a barebones release.
This is the kind of presentation one might expect for a relatively unknown indie film. It looks decent most of the time, but there are some issues that crop up.
First the good. Detail is nice when the lights are on. Fully-lit scenes are full of color and fine detail. Close-ups are quite revealing. Mid- and long-range shots also feature some nice solid lines, colors, and detail. There are some vivid colors here, especially during the hallucinatory Starry Night scene. They really stand out.
Now for the not so good. As with many of these low-budget movies that come to Blu-ray the biggest visible culprit here is banding. Fade-ins and -outs have present banding around the images. Black areas never appear to be as inky as they should be. Shadows have a crushing effect. Lower light scenes are lacking in noticeable dimension. The darker it gets the flatter the image appears.
Nothing much to discuss here with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. It's a straight-forward, front-heavy mix that doesn't utilize the surround channels much. Though that's due to the sound design and the nature of the film.
Dialogue is clear, which is the most crucial aspect. I suppose that most of the sound comes off rather soft compared to other Blu-rays. There really isn't much in the way of surround sound except for a few isolated incidents. Bass is also non-existent. It does what it's supposed to do and packs absolutely no surprises along the way.
Audio Commentary – Producer Kristina Nikolova and director Paul Dalio provide an audio commentary for the film.
The Making of 'Touched With Fire' (HD, 9 min.) – There's a short making-of featurette included.
A Conversation with Paul Dalio and Dr. Kay Jamison (HD, 4 min.) – The director discusses the subject of the movie with a doctor in the field.
Trailer (HD, 2 min.) – A Theatrical trailer is included.
'Touched with Fire' never reaches the narrative heights that it covets. It's aggressively OK, but something I couldn't fathom watching a second time. It has so-so video and workman-like audio. If you're interested in this one I'd recommend renting it. I just can't foresee many people wanting to watch this multiple times.