Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Touched with Fire

I'm fairly lucky not to have anybody close to me who has the sort of mental illness that I feel I can say anything about a movie's authenticity in portraying it, so I can't comment much on that. It was one of the things that had this movie not quite connecting to me - I thought it treated its bipolar adults like kids a lot of the time, but I really don't know if that's just me trying to fit unusual behavior into a context I recognize.

Anyway, there's the grain of salt to take this review with. One thing to mention is that I feel like I saw this preview a lot for it to only open on one screen at Boston Common, and it doesn't even seem to have gone to VOD quickly.

Touched with Fire (aka Mania Days)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 February 2016 in AMC Boston Common #15 (first-run, DCP)

As a film, Touched with Fire sometimes struggles with being bipolar in one of the ways that its characters do, seemingly wanting to claim it as a source of creativity even if the connection is shaky, while the story being told is much more focused on the destructive side of the situation. I can't exactly blame filmmaker Paul Dalio for that; his film is based in part on his own life story and that's one way to handle a difficult relationship with oneself. Or, perhaps, he's got that right but there's something a bit off about the rest of the story, and that's why a lot of good pieces don't quite assemble into a great movie.

The best piece in it is probably Katie Holmes; she's there to play Carla, a poet of some repute whose bipolar disorder manifested in college but has been mostly under control until recently. While the film often emphasizes the manic side of her condition almost to the exclusion of the other side of the cycle, Holmes always makes Carla seem like she wants to function better; there's enough doubt in her agitation that the audience can feel something slipping away as she grows more manic, and uncertainty in the later scenes as Carla's lover Marco puts some harsh quotation marks around "getting better". Though superficially presenting a broad portrait of mental illness, Holmes manages to make Carla a character that a viewer can identify and empathize with.

Luke Kirby is just a notch or two below her, and to a certain extent that's the character he's given: His Marco is also a bipolar poet, the type more likely to be found in rap battles than English departments, but less troubled by his condition, which means Kirby spends much of the movie pushing against people trying to hold him back (to his way of thinking) rather than himself, and that's a simpler, less fascinating characterization. I suspect that he gets the behavior right, and he does vary the intensity fairly well, but even if that's the case, a preformed being honest and true could still use a bit more to work with.

Full review on EFC.

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