‘Where Hands Touch’ follows Leyna (Amandla Stenberg ‘The Hate U Give’, ‘Everything, Everything’, ‘The Hunger Games’), a biracial teen during World War II who falls in love with Lutz (George MacKay, ‘Pride’, ‘Captain Fantastic’), a member of the Hitler Youth. Abbie Cornish (‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, ‘Geostorm’) rounds out the cast playing Leyna's mum. While the film does draw from real accounts of biracial Germans during WWII, all of the characters are completely fictional.
Although it does take a new angle on WWII dramas, being about a biracial teen in Germany, the film is just simply boring. On paper, there are a lot of really interesting things to explore; an African German isn’t something that is commonly explored in film in any means, and her also having a white mother and falling in love with a Nazi is all really fascinating, but the film both doesn’t want to go too deeply into those storylines. This could be a really engrossing and powerful story about identity, but it completely misses the mark.
The film is directed by Amma Asante (‘Belle’, ‘A United Kingdom’) and she does a fine job here; the film looks like your typical British historical biopic. It very much reminds me of films like ‘The Zookeeper's Wife’ or ‘Journey's End’, where you leave feeling like you have gained nothing and wasted two hours - but you're not angry at it, you just feel nothing and will forget you saw it the next day.
Reading the Wikipedia article about Biracial teens in WWII provides much more interest and engagement than anything ‘Where Hands Touch’ does.
The acting across the board is good but nothing is breathtaking. Stenberg seems to care much more here than in ‘Everything, Everything’ or ‘The Darkest Minds’, but definitely a huge step down from her performance in ‘The Hate U Give’. The standout here is Abbie Cornish - she gets some really good emotional moments, and I was the most engaged and captivated in her scenes. George MacKay is the blandest, which is strange because he very much has a lot on his plate character-wise, but falling in love with the enemy and balancing the two, he just comes off as plain.
The film has received some backlash for “romanticising Nazis”. I can see where that could come from, but the film does still show the harsh reality of that group and the terrible things they did, and at the same time the film hasn’t left any impact on me to get too angry at it.
While the premise is interesting, the film is very basic - they fall in love, mother and daughter get torn apart, then third act is set inside a concentration camp. With a two-hour run time, this really drags and makes the film so much longer than it has to be. Reading the Wikipedia article about biracial teens in WWII provides much more interest and engagement than anything ‘Where Hands Touch’ does.