Tango teacher Fei Fei (writer-director Aleksandra Szcepanowska) has married Chinese businessman Zhang Hua (Jun Yang), had a child, adopted a Chinese name, and established a tango salon in the mainland town where they live – but is still stuck in the bureaucratic process of securing permanent residency, unsure that she’ll ever truly assimilate to the culture and understandably paranoid about the possibility of being summarily ejected from her home and family. She’s in a particular bind since her well-connected husband is oddly unwilling to exert any influence on her behalf – furthermore, he’s slightly shady, giving off Gaslight vibes and disapproving of Fei Fei’s child-rearing, especially letting their young son Mo Mo (Beckhan) grow his hair long as a girl’s.
Fei Fei chooses to unwind by having regular massages from Bai Yu (Jiangwi Yuan), a blind masseur-acupuncturist (like Zatoichi) with whom she also has a Fatal Attraction style affair … that spirals out of control as the blind man, who has the usual particular set of skills beyond tapping his way with a white cane, refuses to break things off and starts stalking and perhaps menacing her. Only, it possibly isn’t that simple. Almost after the manner of one of those Jimmy Sangster Hammer psycho diabolique scripts of the 1960s, our understanding of who’s menacing who changes from scene to scene – raising the possibility that we’ve invested our sympathy in the wrong place.
As a rare American film made in and about modern China, Touch has to be tactful about some elements of the culture – the problems Fei Fei and Zhang Hua have are their own, not the bureaucracy’s, and it’s hinted that both are dubious characters a duriful immigration official would do well to be suspicious of. The storyline plays out at a measured pace, more interested in the interplay of cultures and expectations and prejudices than the ratcheting of suspense (aside from a couple of feints, some of which turn out to be dreams) – though the last act, where the unbalanced masseur stages a quiet home invasion and brings his needles with him, defaults to more standard thriller business. Szcepanowska puts herself at centre screen almost as much as Sally Potter did in the thematically-similar The Tango Lesson – and, at one point, is seen naked, riddled with smoking needles.