Film Reviews

Manchester Film Festival: Touched

Is she dead? Is he dead? Is she real? Is he real? What is real? Touched is a pretentious, bleak, but very curious psychological-mystery-thriller-drama all the way from Canada.

Gabriel (Forgive Me’s Hugh Thompson) is the slightly private, slightly creepy, slightly mysterious landlord (and caretaker) of a cheap-looking apartment building. When one of Gabriel’s tenants disappears, owing both an explanation and rent, he takes it upon himself to contact the father, Philip (Capote’s John Maclaren). The father insists that there is no need for Gabriel’s concern, but that doesn’t stop the loner landlord from becoming a dangerously-obsessed detective of which leads to disastrous consequences.

The room vacated by Gabriel’s tenant is now occupied by a child, Caitlyn (Mary Kills People’s Lola Flannery), who is chained to the wall… Politely, Caitlyn invites Gabriel to drink tea (pretend) with her, and of course, in almost mesmerisation, Gabriel obliges to. Subsequently, after the friendship between Gabriel and Caitlyn is beginning to develop, Gabriel buys Caitlyn a gift. Later, mysteriously, the same actions are repeated, thus connoting that Gabriel might be delusional. Child Caitlyn’s existence is confirmed to be of Gabriel’s delusion when later a potential new tenant arrives to observe the apartment and sign the papers, however, Gabriel decides to brush-off the new tenant, and then child Caitlyn is back again.

As Gabriel becomes more involved with the father of his vanished former tenant, he begins to suspect that Philip has murdered his daughter, which leads to Gabriel going to the police and whilst Philip is away, examining his garden shed for evidence or the body itself!

Paralleling Gabriel’s investigation, additional – but eye-opening – facts are revealed about the landlord. Firstly, he almost killed his sister during childhood, though as we see her later in Touched, it is overly obvious that she is both forgiving of Gabriel and sympathetic of him too. As Touched poses many questions to be answered, one of the alarmingly obvious ones would be the following: How did Gabriel come to be the landlord of an apartment building?! It’s rather simple, actually, as he was kindly left the building in the previous ownership’s will. Sadly, however, despite ownership, Gabriel lives quietly in what is essentially an oversized stock cupboard, but with facilities such as a bed, table, and stove etc.

The phrase “Curiosity killed the cat.” is somewhat of relevance in Touched, as Gabriel beginning to question the wrong person, Vaddy (Arrival’s Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles), sees himself on the end of a VERY harsh assault.

Furthermore, the concept of “routine” potentially goes unnoticed in Touched too, though it is quite obvious. Gabriel has his consistent duties to take care of his apartment building, including the extermination of rats, but also there are two more additions: once a week he strolls into a bakery to purchase the same loaf of bread to the hilarity of the shop’s owner, of which he later eats with a tin of food; and he appears to position himself close-by to the restaurant where his sister comforts herself, but later notices Gabriel overlooking her.

Hugh Thompson’s performance in Touched finally confirms a successful transition from TV broadcast to feature-length film role. The way in which Thompson portrayed the lead, Gabriel, it was obvious from the start that the character was troubled to an extent. To play a troubled character is not easy. To strip all emotions, but remain an interesting character is a sign of both highly talented acting and the director’s presentation of said acting.

Additionally, Lola Flannery’s performance as child Caitlyn was satisfying for one major reason: she wasn’t annoying. Young teens and younger can be disastrously annoying, but having most emotions stripped, like Thompson’s Gabriel, Flannery’s Caitlyn remains a mysterious and interesting viewing pleasure throughout Touched.

Lastly on the acting front, John Maclaren’s performance as the father, Phillip, successfully adds more elements of mystery and uncertainty in Touched. Did he kill his daughter? Is he telling the truth to Gabriel? Is he hiding something? Is he just a loner like Gabriel? So many curiosities

Ultimately, Touched is a clever presentation of using genre expectations to trick its audience. In one instance, the audience expects Touched to develop into a fully fledged crime thriller, however, the plot returns to presenting a talkative drama – tremendous trickery from director, Karl R. Hearne.

If there are to be any criticisms or faults with Touched, one can argue that there is an over-usage of blue in the cinematography, a story occurrence is repeated similarly too often, and as a whole, Touched is a bit too pretentious. Those criticisms, however, are unable to prevent Touched from being of a high quality.

If you happen to be a fan of genre-hopping or genre-blending, then Touched is quite possibly the best indie example of genre manipulation in recent years.

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