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Love is madness in “Touched With Fire,” writer-director Paul Dalio’s passionate exploration of the links between manic depression, creativity and romance.

Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby play Carla and Marco, a pair of manic depressives who meet in a psychiatric hospital and form a close bond with one another. Despite their doctors’ orders, they pursue their relationship outside the hospital, their love burning hot and causing chaos for themselves and their respective families.

“Touched With Fire” is inspired by author Kay Redfield Jamison’s book of the same name, which took a look at bipolar tendencies in artists ranging from Vincent van Gogh to Virginia Woolf. Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” plays a large role in the fabric of the film and becomes a character unto itself.

Dalio, himself diagnosed as bipolar, is clearly invested in the story, and he gets deeply committed performances from his two leads. Holmes and Kirby dive in to the material and don’t pull punches, and the spark between them ignites the small, personal story.

Dalio’s bigger points about the creative genius that runs through those with manic tendencies isn’t as realized, and the long list of people he notes at the end of the film feel like part of a book report on the subject, rather than a part of the film.

Yet “Touched With Fire” is effective in showing the intensity of a new relationship and the barriers people build up around themselves when they take on an us-against-the-world mentality. Sometimes those fires are meant to burn long and bright, others they’re destined to quickly flame out.

agraham@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/grahamorama

‘Touched With Fire’

GRADE: B

Rated R: for language, a disturbing image, brief sexuality and drug use

Running time: 110 minutes

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