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In Touched with Fire, two bipolar patients (played by Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby) meet in a psychiatric hospital and begin a romance that brings out all of the beauty and horror of their condition.

Joey Kuhn/Courtesy of Red Eye Media

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Touched with Fire
Written by
Paul Dalio
Directed by
Paul Dalio
Starring
Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2016

Lord Byron said that poets are crazy, and that "some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched."

"Touched" is an ambiguous term, and the thoughtful, quietly intense indie romantic drama Touched with Fire wrestles with the question of whether creative people with bipolar disorders should be viewed as afflicted (and therefore medicated), or if they should be seen as gifted (in the tortured-artist way).

The film is the work of Paul Dalio, who for years experienced frenetic highs and lows himself. Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby compellingly play manic-depressive poets who meet in a mental-health ward and fall in love.

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A sun-moon metaphor affixed to the characters is stuck to relentlessly as the van Gogh-loving pair navigate a life together that their parents are understandably wary of. (Kirby's character, more romantic in his outlook on mania, is prone to avoiding meds in order to keep his passions intact.) Dalio's script doesn't always flow as smoothly as the camera work, but an air of calm authenticity should leave audiences touched, in a good way.

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