TOUCHED WITH FIRE: 4 STARS

Paul Dalio who wrote the screenplay, directed, edited and even wrote the musical score for his new film "Touched With Fire." It’s a personal story for him, not simply because he was so involved with the production, but because it’s in part based on his own struggle with bipolar disease.

Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby star as bipolar poets who meet in a treatment facility. They bond over a shared love of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting "Starry Night" and the story of the "Little Prince," drawing parallels between the art, their lives and their creativity. Their connection is intense, surviving the powerful highs and anguished lows of their disease but when she becomes pregnant they must take drastic steps to make their relationship work.

Dalio is deep inside his subject here, and the movie drips with compassion and heartfelt emotion that, luckily, overrides the melodrama which seeps into the love story. His portrayal of manic behaviour takes us inside the feeling by using a shifting colour scheme to emphasize the euphoric sensation that characterizes the highest of highs.

Coupled with strong work from Holmes and Kirby it’s a lyrical portrayal of the experience of mania.

It’s a tricky subject and while Dalio occasionally overstates his thesis that creative genius lies within the disease, he presents it with power and without a hint of exploitation.

Less effective is the story’s tendency to walk a predictable path. As startling as the depiction of bipolar is, a more traditional "Romeo and Juliet" vibes hangs heavy over the proceedings. As parents and doctors work to keep them apart some of the air gets sucked out of the story.

"Touched With Fire" is a flawed but ultimately fascinating look at a delicate topic.