The new Lynn Shelton film is a slow burn. The languidly paced story about a massage therapist (Rosemary DeWitt) with an aversion to touch, an awkward dentist (Josh Pais) with the ability to heal TMJ and his daughter, the directionless Jenny (Ellen Page), is a delicate creation. It’s a character study about fear of intimacy that makes up for the listless story with atmosphere and wonderful, naturalistic performances from the cast. Allison Janney shines as a Reiki master, but it is Page who breaks hearts as a woman with unrequited love for a man.
In the years since she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Juno, she has worked with directors Christopher Nolan, Woody Allen and Drew Barrymore, but Touchy Feely filmmaker Lynn Shelton asked her to do something she hasn’t done since her teens working in her hometown of Halifax—improvisation.
“I had done nothing remotely like improv since Trailer Park Boys,” she says.
“It was an intriguing challenge for me because it was completely stepping out of my comfort zone. There were some scenes she had written where she’d be pushing us to improvise because that’s what she likes, and I’d be like, ‘Lynne, the scene is great. I’m not going to improve on this, believe me.’”
The movie focuses on three relatives, a massage therapist with an aversion to touch, her dentist brother and Jenny, a character Page describes as having an “incredibly quiet, self contained, deep, deep sadness and fear and unwillingness to move forward in life.”
Page breathes life into the character and says she was “completely intrigued with her journey as a person” but what really keeps her going is trying new things.
“It’s funny because after certain things happen in your career and things change and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera there is definitely a mind set that tries to get put on you about the next move,” she says.
“I get all that but what is hands down the most important thing for me is that I feel inspired and serious and passionate and continue to feel ambitious.”
With a variety of projects in the works—including the Beyond: Two Souls video game and X-Men: Days of Future Past—Page is keeping it interesting by staying varied.
“I get paid to explore all kinds of things and it always feeds you in a way that is incredible. Any job I do I try and do everything I can to grow as an actor. I love what I do so I’m always trying to get better at it, always learn more from all of the amazing people I work with. The ability to get to go to work and feel so deeply—deep sadness, deep pain, joy, anger and feel that flow through you. To get to do that as your job is pretty incredible.”