R&A 13: Touchy Feely

1 h 30 min  |  Love&Anarchy  |  Release Date: 20.9.2013

Though its log line – a massage therapist develops a strong aversion to touch – sounds like a setup for easy comedy, Lynn Shelton's Touchy Feely takes its subject's distress seriously, treating it as a metaphor for fear of commitment. Laughs come less frequently here than in Humpday and Your Sister's Sister, but the writer-director's empathy for floundering characters is intact.

Rosemarie DeWitt is Abby and her problem arises suddenly: One day before a massage, she becomes fixated on the texture of skin on her knee. She subsequently finds herself unable to touch her client without running off to vomit; when she goes, anxiously, to see her boyfriend (Scoot McNairy's Jesse), she bolts before he can kiss her. What we notice, and Abby seemingly doesn't, is that this sudden phobia has arrived immediately after Jesse asked her to move in with him.

In an odd parallel Abby's loss is her brother Paul's gain. Paul (Josh Pais), a joyless dentist whose practice is close to failure, finds that through routine cleanings he is able to cure patients of the chronic jaw pain known as TMJ.

This magical zero-sum scenario resonates with the film's interest in the energy-balancing beliefs of Reiki, the Japanese relaxation technique. Abby's close friend Bronwyn (Allison Janney) is a practitioner, reading people's energy and making herbal potions.

John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter


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