Remarkably, in researching Touch, I discovered that it is the only film made in the People’s Republic of China made by a caucasian western woman. Aleksandra Szczepanowska wrote, directed, and starred in Touch, a tale of love, lust, and obsession. Fei Fei, played by Szczepanowska, is a caucasian western woman, married to a Chinese man with a small child, seeking permanent residency in China. Her simple world is blown open when she meets and falls in love with a blind masseuse, beginning a deadly love affair.
Touch does not shy away from the life-changing implications and consequences of Fei Fei’s affair. Her stresses of her marriage to Zhang Hua (Jun Yang), her husband’s mysterious past, their inability to successfully co-parent their school-age son Mo Mo (Beckhan), and the immense weight of the road to her permanent residency all collide to create a storm inside Fei Fei, leading her to questionable decisions. She knows, every step of the way, the gravity of her choices, but falls for them anyway. She plays mind games with herself, that is until her lover Bai Yu (Jiangwei Yuan) can begin to obsessively play games enough for the both of them. His obsession turns into a twisted chase, which leads Fei Fei to question her safety, her sanity, and her very life.
Disturbing, engrossing, and thrilling, Touch creates, as can be expected, a perfect vehicle for Szczepanowska, who gives the performance of a lifetime. She is sexy, beautiful, smart, and vulnerable all at once. Her perfect wife and flawed woman crash and burn, balanced uniquely between her two stoic but slightly unhinged lovers. Ultimately, Bai Yu and Zhang Hua are two sides of the same coin – but only one of them has enough love for her to save her from herself.
Szczepanowska uses her voice to its fullest effect, bringing to the screen a character archetype very rarely represented in film. The assimilation of western women into Chinese culture is not nearly as seen in film as the reverse, and is an important and rampant part of Chinese culture. The intricacies of the marriage of a white woman to a powerful Chinese man, the arduous visa process and the red tape involved with the approval, the cultural significance of Fei Fei’s assimilation and passing ability, all so often ignored in Chinese cinema. Szczepanowska is a feminist voice of the future, breaking barriers and glass ceilings at the same time.
Touch is a masterfully crafted tale of intrigue and passion, and the obsession that they can spawn. Family life led by a modern femme fatale, Touch is a tale of lust and love for the modern era – with a crashing, colliding finale that will have you holding your breath.
6.5 out of 10