The summertime film releases usually consist of a few blockbusters, a batch of ation adventure thrillers, some scary ones, a slew of comedies, and several flicks with nothing more to recommend them than their big star names. Oftentimes, small and wonderfully made movies are lost in the shuffle. Let's hope this doesn't happen to Touched by Love. It is an emotionally rich, finely acted, and memorable story about caring, friendship, and hope. It is based on the book To Elvis With Love by Lena Canada about he experiences with a cerebral palsy victim. There is an echo of The Miracle Worker here plus fresh vibrancy and authenticity.

Lena (played by Deborah Raffin who recently stared in the CBS-TV production Haywire) is a college dropout who signs up as a nurse's aide at a school for special children. She is the type of person who finds fulfillment in "helping and having people need me." Karen (Diane Lane, one of the youthful stars of A Little Romance) is the home's problem child — she has retreated into a shell of silence and no one on the staff has been able to reach her. Lena sees at once that Karen is not beyond being touched by love. In her spare time she takes the distant teenager for walks and talk to her. Although Dr. Bell (Michael Learned) chides her new staff member for getting so emotionally involved with Karen, the expenditure of time and concern pays off. Karen opens up.

Up to this point the film is filled with touching sequences and affecting character portraits of the staff and the children. Lena's zealousness is nicely offset by both her roommate's (Cristina Raines) lack of seriousness and Dr. Bell's savvy regarding the limits of benevolence.

Following a period of therapy and renewal for Karen, Lena discovers that she has a "crush" on Elvis Presley fueled by articles in fan magazines. After giving her Presley records and posters, Lena suggests she send a letter to the singer. Karen decides she will write it herself — and with determination achieves her goal. After a seeming eternity of waiting, Elvis replies and the two become pen pals. Karen is twice blessed by the touch of love.

Hesper Anderson's screenplay is remarkably effective in conveying the subtle changes in the mutually rewarding relationship between Lena and Karen. The young girl's blossoming after her rock idol responds is absolutely marvelous. Director Gus Trikonis paces the undulating storyline very well and makes good use of the scenic setting. Touched by Love is a family film that exudes warmth and promotes the values inherent in the unique ability of human beings to care for each other.