Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Touch: Hand-Crafted Indie

If a craftsman works with their hands and an artist works with their hands and heart, than Tam is a manicure artist.  Brendan is a mechanic and a regular customer.  Their business relationship will evolve into the realm of the ambiguously personal in Minh Duc Nguyen’s Touch (trailer here), which releases today on DVD from Cinema Libre.

Tam is quiet but she has considerable talent for her work.  Despite her reserve, she is reasonably popular with her co-workers and clients at V.I.P. Nails.  Brendan is a special case.  One day the sheepish chap walks into the salon for a deep cleaning of his grease stained hands.  Evidently, his increasingly distant white collar wife has used his grubby paws as an excuse to keep him at arm’s length.  Tam gets the grime out, but that is just the start of it.  Each time Brendan returns for his regular cleansing, she coaches him on ways to win back his wife’s affections.

Of course, the close contact between Tam and Brendan leads to more intense yearnings, confusing them both.  On paper, they would seem a much better match.  Both work with their hands and are relatively shy, but quietly harbor deep feelings.  Unfortunately, Tam’s efforts to care for her difficult father monopolizes much of her personal time.

Touch is too realistically messy to be called a romance, but it taps into some pretty intimate territory.  Yet, it should resonate with particular force for first and second generation Vietnamese immigrants, who understand the hardships endured by the older characters during their flight from the Communist oppression.

John Ruby’s work as Brendan is refreshingly mature and down-to-earth, but the film is truly defined by Porter Lynn’s star-making turn as Tam.  She powerfully but sensitively portrays the young woman’s vulnerability and hidden pain, as well as her sensual side.  There is no question this is her film, but Journey from the Fall star Long Nguyen’s brave performance as her father also has real impact.

Small in scope, it would not take much cutting to adapt Touch for the legit stage.  Nonetheless, it expresses some very real emotions, with honesty rather than false sentiment.  If only more slice-of-life indies were like this.  An impressive, unassumingly humanistic film, Touch is recommended for those who appreciate adult drama.  It is now available on DVD and digital/VOD platforms from Cinema Libre.