Movie Reviews

Review: ‘Touched With Fire’ is an Honest Take On Mental Illness

Genre: Drama | Romance Directed by: Paul Dalio Sarring: Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti Written by: Paul Dalio

Genre: Drama | Romance
Directed by: Paul Dalio
Sarring: Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti
Written by: Paul Dalio

Synopsis: Two bipolar patients meet in a psychiatric hospital and begin a romance that brings out all of the beauty and horror of their condition. (Imdb)

You see a lot of movies attempting to detail a character dealing with a disease or disorder, but seldom you have one direct a movie that deals with the issue portrayed on-screen. Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby) are both dealing with bipolar disorder in different ways. Carla’s situation is more controlled and her parents are helping her through it. Marco on the other hand isolates himself from the world and refuses help and support. Their world’s collide when they meet at a psychiatric hospital. Soon after their romance quickly blossoms and they find themselves running from everything and everyone in their lives.


The film offers an honest portrayal of someone dealing with bipolar disorder. There are many movies made about characters dealing with cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc., but very few that depict bipolar disorder. The director of the film Paul Dalio has openly expressed living with bipolar disorder. The characters are living their reality, while friends, family, and medical professionals attempt to conform them to the everyday world. Instead of solely focusing on the subject of mental illness, the film has a really nice love story that these two characters share with one another.

To my surprise Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby have good chemistry on-screen. You can definitely believe that these two people could fall in love under these circumstances. Carla is more subdued, while Marco is a lot more eccentric, yet together they are a fitting yin and yang. The story is crafted in such a way that it had me debating the whether the couple can function on their own, without the assistance of others.

Sharing a moment together

Sharing a moment together


The first half of the movie is abstract and confusing. I was constantly wondering if Marco is some sort of devil worshiper? He appears to have gone insane, rattles off verses and phrases talking about a bunch of vague things. This takes place mainly in the first half hour of the movie, but it confuses to a point of losing interest in the story and character. The filmmakers attempt at showing the beauty and creativity through the eyes of the character experiencing it, but instead of seeing the creativity, I was left disinterested.

The characters are always writing something in the movie

The characters are always writing something in the movie


I appreciated “Touched With Fire” for the message it sends. It’s a love story told through the eyes of someone dealing with mental illness. Dalio didn’t run away from the issue and seemed to have addressed it on multiple levels. You see the struggle friends and families have to go through having their loved one live with it. It also gives an honest representation of the people that lives with mental illness, and the ups and downs they have to deal with on a daily basis. More movies like this should be made depicting mental illness, which is a topic that’s often times neglected and not taken as seriously as other illnesses. Having the name recognition of Katie Holmes certainly helps the film with mainstream appeal, instead of being considered a underground indie. At times it left me confused and at other times the film gave me a better understanding of what bipolar disorder and mental illness is about.

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 50min

Release Date: February 19, 2016 

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  • Acting - 7.5/10
  • Cinematography - 7.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 7/10
  • Setting/Theme - 8/10
  • Buyability - 7.5/10
  • Recyclability - 6/10
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