Touched With Fire
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: R for strong language, disturbing images and brief sexuality.
Theater: Lagoon and Southdale.


Two bipolar poets fall in love in “Touched With Fire,” a drama that authentically conveys the highest highs and unbearable lows of mental illness. Writer/director Paul Dalio was inspired by his own experiences with bipolar disorder to make the film, which is capably brought to life by Katie Holmes, playing Carla, and Luke Kirby as Marco. When the movie begins, each is in the midst of a psychotic episode. Marco has quit his job and spends his days and nights inside of a cluttered apartment drawing pictures of the moon, while living off free milk from Starbucks and fast-food ketchup packets. Carla is afflicted with heavy, dark moods after flushing her medication down the toilet. Both end up in the same hospital, where they meet during group therapy. Their relationship is combative at first, but they find common ground: Both are artists who fear pharmaceuticals will stifle their creativity.

The movie catapults the audience into the mind of a bipolar person, with quick-cut montages and layers of dialogue that unfold simultaneously, like so many voices inside a sick person’s head. “Touched With Fire” also reminds us that countless creative geniuses have been afflicted. It’s by no means a perfect film. The production values and melodrama sometimes seem better suited for a small-screen movie. But the drama deserves points for its measured, realistic view of mental illness. That’s something we don’t see very often.