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Format(s) Available
Opening Date
18 Jul 2024
M18 Sexual Scenes
121 mins
English - subtitles to be advised
Baltasar Kormákur
Egill Ólafsson, Kōki, Pálmi Kormákur Baltasarsson, Masahiro Motoki
Soon after the break of the pandemic and realizing that his clock is ticking, Kristofer gets the urge to embark on a journey to try to find out what really happened when his Japanese girlfriend mysteriously vanished without a trace from London fifty years earlier.
By InCinemas  08 Jul 2024
A powerful film on devastating losses and overcoming grief.
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Baltasar Kormákur – a director best known for helming high octane thrillers such as 2 Guns, Contraband, Everest, and Beast – effectively reveals a soft sensitive side of himself in TOUCH, the story of cross-cultural romance which spans decades and continents. The film is based on the novel by Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson, which follows one man’s emotional journey to find his lost first love before his time runs out.   
The opening scenes of the beautiful sweeping snow-laden landscapes in Iceland effectually provides a desolate landscape which parallels the loneliness of widower Kristofer (Egill Ólafsson) in his silent and empty home. Having been diagnosed with early stage dementia, and on the advice of his doctor “that it is the time to tend to any unfinished business”, Kristofer closes his Rekyavik restaurant, mutters softly “forgive me” to the photograph of his deceased wife and flies to London, just as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are ramping up in 2020.
In London, he revisits familiar places from his time there as a young man (played by Pálmi Kormákur) at the tail end of the 1960s. During a period of unrest, his radical ideas prompt him to reject an established education at the London School of Economics and instead, to work as a dish washer at Nippon, a Japanese restaurant in London patronised mostly by Japanese customers due to lingering post-war antipathy. His decision to work in Nippon is largely due to his instant attraction to the owner’s daughter, Miko (Kōki), who works as a waitress during weekends at the restaurant. Encouraged by Miko’s stern but fatherly owner, Takahashi-san (Masahiro Motoki), Kristofer begins helping with kitchen prep and then proves adept on mastering Japanese cooking techniques while teaching himself the basics of the language including the art of haiku.
Despite being under the watchful eye of her conservative father, Miko is a confident young woman always stepping out in Mary Quant mini-dresses and soaking up the freedom in swinging London. At the beginning, Miko regards the young Icelander with detached amusement, but gradually warms to his gentle manner and reciprocates his romantic advances. They begin a passionate but clandestine relationship, amidst the blossoming friendship between Kristofer and Takahashi-san bearing in mind that it was a time not conducive to cross-cultural dalliances. Kristofer learns that the family emigrated to England from Hiroshima, where their lives, like many fellow Japanese were tragically changed by World War II. Supporting characters, like Nippon’s charming waitress Hitomi (Meg Kubota) and opera-singing chef Arai-san (Tatsuya Tagawa) adds to the rich camaraderie and tight knit family dynamics of Nippon.
There’s an undercurrent of anxiety in the form of an untold story between Miko and her father which Kristofer doesn’t know at the time and may never learn unless he meets Miko again. One day, without warning, Kristofer arrives at work to find Takahashi-san has hurriedly closed Nippon. Both Takahashi-san and Miko are gone with no word of goodbye.  
The film shuffles back and forth in Kristofer’s timeline allowing us to conjure feelings of his unrelenting affection towards Miko and anguish at his loss as we piece together details from Kristofer’s past including memories of his eventual wife (Maria Ellingsen) and her decision not to have children of their own. With the help of a hotel staff, Kristofer manages to track down Hitomi who used to work in Nippon, just as the hotel is ready to close its doors due to the onset of Covid-19 restrictions. His meeting with Hitomi leads him to Japan and closer to Miko.   
Amidst the race to find Miko and getting frantic calls from his step daughter on fears of his declining health as well as closing of hotels and international borders from the pandemic, Kristofer’s journey takes a much needed breather, as the audiences witnesses a happy interlude where he strikes up friendship in a Tokyo sake bar with another lonely widower, Kutaragi-san (Masatoshi Nakamura).    
The film with its dialogue in English, Japanese and Icelandic, lends an extremely cosmopolitan environment but Kormákur’s directing also cleverly allows tension to build steadily to its gripping climax. Will the elderly Kristofer’s emotional journey end with much needed closure to the mystery of Miko’s abrupt disappearance 50 years ago? Is there a chance for possible happiness; or will he be met with more heartbreak and disappointment?
Touch is an elegantly crafted film on a beautiful love story interrupted by time, mystery and the ripple effects of war and the bombing of Hiroshima. Kormákur knows when to curb its sentimentality and when to let scenes sit to allow it resonate with the audience. Like its title, the film not only dwells on the impact of losing contact with the ones you so dearly love, but also the human determination to overcome the obstacles (both external and internal). This brings the audience to the scene when the couple is having their first intimate encounter, with Miko touching Kristóf’s face in the kitchen during food prep and again engaging in these small physical acts of touch at the quiet confines of Miko’s home.
The cast deserves mention for their excellent portrayal of the characters. In particular, Kiko and Pálmi Kormákur gave a restrained, sensitive and credible performance of two individuals finding each other and exude great chemistry as the young lovers, Miko and Kristofer. Ultimately, this is a powerful film on people rebounding from devastating losses and choosing courage to overcome grief and find love for oneself, family and one’s life for better or worse. There’s nothing more touching than seeing all that in action matched with stunning cinematography across three countries. After all, romance is not dead for most of us. 
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