Having nowhere near the level of haphephobia as our protagonist Nicola, I can also say I'm definitely not a stranger. Haphephobia is the fear of being touched. The extreme fear of being touched. It's horrifying to the person afflicted, and equally awkward for anyone that comes into contact with them. I can't stand being touched. By anyone. For me however, it's not a paralyzing experience, just incredibly uncomfortable. Yet I can still relate with Nicola, making "Nicola: A Touching Story" more personal than it otherwise could have been.
As I'm sure you've guessed, Nicola suffers from haphephobia. So severe in fact, that her new husband Leon fears their friends may think he is abusing her. This is a type of mental condition that closely resembles that of an abused person. Shying away from any form of close contact with others. That anxious persona, that escalates to uncontrollable spasms if someone does happen to get close. Leon is not sure what to do, but knows he loves this woman - and will do anything to try and help her. It's a strained relationship - and although not said in the film directly, wondering how long it can possibly go on, would always be first and foremost in my mind. There has to be a way to help. To cure. Right?
This isn't where this story ends however, it's not even really the start. You see reader, Nicola gets a visit from a boiler technician. A man that essentially pushes himself inside her private sanctuary, after Leon has left for work. What follows, for Nicola, is scarier than any monster movie she could ever see. If events continue... she fears the worst. Or maybe, for once, her haphephobia could save her life. I suppose you'll just have to watch this quick short film to find out. It's a freebie.
"Nicola: A Touching Story" is a low budget film with a great story backing it. What it lacks in budgeted gear, it more than makes up for with some great acting and a solid screenplay. I won't downplay the strain on my eyes, as the camera stuttered about, often blurring whenever any motion was introduced - but this was no doubt enhanced because I was watching on my 65" television. Generally, when the camera was static, or almost static, the images looked decent. Sometimes even really good. Yet it was the audio that was the elephant in the room.
Clearly, I could hear wind noise when the dialog track was queued back into the mix. Aside from having a bigger budget, a great fix would have been to add a "hissy" ambient background track to the entire scene(s). Or, to have faded in the dialog track, starting a few seconds before it was needed. Anything to lessen the drastic change in tone and hiss would have done wonders. Normally, some wind noise here and there is not a big deal... but in this case, it was really front and center.
But then we have the acting. Honestly? I was pleasantly surprised. Nicola (Amelia Eve) was portrayed damned near perfectly. Maybe a little over the top during that initial scene in the hallway, but otherwise completely believable. There is also the possibility that the initial hallway scene wasn't over the top at all. I can only relate through experience, and my "fear of being touched" is nowhere near the level of Nicola's. Peter Svatik as Leon, was convincing with his attempts to possibly "buy" his friendships, in lieu of his wife's behavior. His overall performance as a guy who really wants to make his wife happy - to help her get well, was great. Heartfelt even. And finally, the supporting roles were all filled nicely. Including a creepy invasion of privacy from a seemingly shady inspector. All in all the cast were a high point of this production. Through and through, no question.
At the end of the day, "Nicola: A Touching Story" is a nicely written drama that hits quick, hits hard, and leaves you wondering. The open ended conclusion allows for the viewer to contemplate all that has happened, and will possibly happen next. Dev Seth, who wrote and directed, offers up a great piece of indie filmmaking - and it's free. There is always that. A solid three stars.