The individual paths the characters went down seemed to be very separate from our initial expectations of the films intentions.
Lynn Shelton’s Touchy Feely has, so far, gathered mixed reviews and unfortunately I got to see why. I went into the film very open minded and came away feeling confused and largely disappointed. Nevertheless, there can be a lot said for the powerful depiction of energy and balance within life and relationships, something that Shelton has always done a great job with in her films.
Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a massage therapist whose world is enriched with the need to find balance within all aspects of her life, and her brother Paul (Josh Pais) seems to be the complete opposite, with an uptight personality who comes across as extremely emotionally stunted.
At a dinner held at the house Paul and his daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) share, we are introduced to all the characters that the film focuses on, each with different but strong personalities and each involved within the shift of energy and balance that occurs. Paul is dental practice owner whose business is failing yet it would seem he is in denial. During the dinner Abby advises her brother to see Bronwyn (Allison Janney) who is a Reiki healer and a personal friend of hers.
From the very beginning you get a sense that Touchy Feely is about something bigger than the characters within the film and that energy and balance are two factors that will play a large part in how the story will take shape. Abby develops an aversion to bodily contact and is unable to perform the duties required of her within her profession as well as the ability to share the passion she once had with her partner (Scoot McNairy). This obviously affects her well balanced lifestyle and how she deals with her new found fear is where this film would have focused on – or so you would have assumed.
What I found confusing however, was that the individual paths the characters went down seemed to be very separate from our initial expectations of the films intentions. We presume that from the Touchy Feely poster of Abby and that the entire sequences of events that occur are related to this character’s lifestyle – that Touchy Feely is about her. Yet once the credits role, I felt that it highlighted her brothers personal progression and even his daughter Jenny’s development so much more than any other – that Abby’s final ‘realisation’ was a mere after thought. If this was what the film intended, that the whole storyline and focus would shift along with the balance of energy, then it would seem to make a lot more sense. If this were the case then Touchy Feely would have done well to spend more time on tightening this idea rather than giving Abby somewhat confusing additional storylines, for instance the five-ten minutes she experienced the drug ‘ecstasy’ seemed utterly disconnected from the film.