Touchy Feely
dir-scr Lynn Shelton
prd Steven Schardt
with Rosemarie DeWitt, Josh Pais, Ellen Page, Scoot McNairy, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Tomo Nakayama, Ruth McRee, Alycia Delmore, Hans Altwies, Shannon Kipp, Amber Wolfe Wollam
release UK Apr.13 slf, US 6.Sep.13
13/US 1h28
Touchy Feely
Healing touch: Pais and DeWitt

page mcnairy janney
sundance london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Touchy Feely Shelton once again tackles sensitive relationship issues in this observant comedy, which finds quiet resonance in the astute performances even if the script never really fills in the blanks. It's an enjoyable dark comedy, although as it centres on the awkwardness between these people, the film never quite resolves into something meaningful.

Abby (DeWitt) is a massage therapist in Seattle who isn't sure if she should move in with her rebound boyfriend (McNairy). This sparks a crisis that makes her recoil at the touch of human skin, which makes it impossible for her to go to work. Meanwhile, her dentist brother Paul (Pais) discovers that he might have the ability to heal his patients, so he consults Abby's reiki-practitioner colleague (Janney) for advise. And Paul's daughter Jenny (Page) realises that she hates working as her dad's assistant, but feels powerless to make a change.

The loose, messy connections between these characters provide a lot of fuel for the actors to play with various layers of interaction. Everyone has issues with everyone else, and we can feel these things vividly in the tentative conversations and uncomfortable physicality. Things also sometimes threaten to move into Shelton's usual more transgressive territory, such as the fact that Jenny clearly has a crush on her aunt's boyfriend.

DeWitt and Pais hold our attention with their nervous, edgy performances. Pais is especially likeable as the painfully insecure Paul, and we just want to give him a hug. McNairy is also endearing, as he struggles to make sense of something utterly illogical going on around him. And both Page and Janney are also excellent, although Shelton never really makes the most of either character.

In the end, Shelton seems to be suggesting that the solution to our problems generally come when we least expect them, and from the least likely source. The fact that each of these three central characters has an existential crisis independently and simultaneously is a more than a little contrived. And Shelton tries a bit too hard to tie it all up in a sugary-sweet bow. So it's in the small details of the acting and the implicative dialog that the film charms us.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 23.Apr.13 slf

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