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Carla and Marco are manic-depressive poets whose art is fueled by their emotional extremes. When they go off their meds, they end up in the same psychiatric hospital. As the chemistry between them stirs up their emotions, it intensifies their mania. Despite doctors' and parents' attempts to separate them, they pursue their beautiful but destructive romance which swings them from fantastical manic highs to suicidal depressive lows, until they have to choose between sanity and love.

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Touched With Fire movie full length review - Well-intended but falls short of compelling viewing

"Touched With Fire" (original title: "Mania Days"; 2016 release; 110 min.) brings the story of Carla (played by Katie Holmes) and Marco (played by Luke Kirby).

As the movie opens, we are reminded it is "Fall", and we see Carla giving a poetry reading (from her book "Faded") at a book store. Meanwhile, we see Marco arguing with his dad about the sloppy/sorry state of Marco's apartment, having decided to go not just off the grid, but "off society" altogether. It isn't long before both Carla and Marco end up in a psych ward. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this movie is written, directed, scored and co-edited by Paul Dalio, for me previously unknown. Dalio takes the real-life book "Touched With Fire" by Kay Jamison, which explores the ties (if any) between artistic genius and bipolar disorder, and weaves it into a fictional tale of two artistic-leaning people who like ships in the night find each other by happenstance, and strike a special bond (or do they?). The central question throughout the movie: is being bipolar a gift or an illness? Along the way, we see the two main performers (Holmes and Kirby, the latter reminding me physically of Mark Ruffalo) give it all they can with the material at hand. Unfortunately, while the movie is well-intended, it falls short of compelling viewing. We should be emotionally invested, but for whatever reason I wasn't for most of this. Only towards the very end did I get a sense of what-might-have-been. One of the better side aspects of the movie is the mostly minimalist score, composed by the director himself. At the very end of the movie, Dalio leaves us with this dedication: "For my wife, who shed light on this cold and dark stone", wow.

This movie was filmed in Spring 2013, and just now reaches gets a theatrical release. It's frankly a miracle it made it to the big screen at all. The movie opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The early evening screening where I saw this at was not attended very well, and I would be surprised if this sticks around for more than a week. If you have a particular interest in either the movie's subject matter or the main performers, I'd say this is worth checking out, warts and all, be it on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion regarding "Touched With Fire".