It takes a keen eye to be able to distinguish between a movie that is slight be design or one that is unintentionally slight through failed execution. Writer/director Lynn Shelton's latest effort "Touchy Feely" doesn't hit us over the head with any overtly dramatic moments but instead lets the unspoken moments shine through.
When a massage therapist (Rosemarie DeWitt) is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother's (Josh Pais) floundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his healing touch.
This feature follow up to 2011's "Your Sister's Sister", writer/director Lynn Shelton goes a slightly different route with this quirky family drama that doesn't lean on the laughs but instead focuses on those unspoken moments between family members that not only cause us pain but open us up to new possibilities about the ones closest to us. Shelton is well skilled at keeping a story moving and this heartfelt little drama looks at how tenuous the connections we make as people truly are. She honors her story because her characters are not over written, eccentric for the sake of being eccentric, they are just mildly screwed up, with problems that we all have. At times it does feel a little forced as she moves away from her more traditional improvised style to something a little more structured and ironically that almost makes it all feel a little too obscure at times. However that being said the ultimate narrative is more about maintaining the mood of these floundering characters, and while it doesn't always make for the most compelling viewing, these are character that we as an audience get behind and the ensemble makes them come alive by simply finding real places to build from.
Rosemarie DeWitt doesn't play her crisis in broad strokes, but rather in introspective ones that don't use dialogue, but she gets the point across even when only using an expression or a well meaning glance in the right direction. There's a scene she shares with Scoot McNairy who plays her boyfriend and it is heartbreaking as nary a word is said as she tries to confront her fear of intimacy, something that all these characters have to deal with. Ellen Page is a little more understated with it all and doesn't quite get enough screen time as her conflicts with her dad (played by Josh Pais) are the one's better left unsaid as they both try to move on after a death in the family. Pais gets to put in some solid work as the emotionally and physically repressed dentist who needs some sort of release to move on with his life. Allison Janney and Ron Livingston are fairly wasted in some pivotal roles that help our key characters snap out of their respective funks but it all ultimately still works.
These characters that we follow in "Touchy Feely" are intended to be as real as humanly possible, and much like meeting people in real life, the first impression isn't always perfect. However when you let them sit with you for awhile it makes for a much more memorable experience, as this one will sit with you well after it is over, imperfections and all.
3 out of 5 stars.
"Touchy Feely" opens in Toronto and Saskatoon today, please check with your local listings for show times.