Where Hands Touch – Film review

From the director of Belle and A United Kingdom – Amma Asante – comes another racially-charged story of forbidden love.

Where Hands Touch centres on the character of Leyna (played by Amandla Stenberg), a bi-racial girl who lives with her mother Kerstin (Australia’s Abbie Cornish) and younger brother in the German countryside. After an encounter with Hitler’s secret police, who are searching for Leyna to implement a sterilisation order, her identity papers are destroyed. Kerstin moves the family to Berlin believing they can be hidden in plain sight.

They arrive in a city already teeming with Gestapo. Residents are rounded up to be sent to camps or they are victim to atrocious crimes doled out in the streets. Unfortunately Leyna stands out from all the other girls in school and is the subject of her harsh teacher. She will be expelled and must work at the labour factories with her mother. She attracts the eye of Lutz (George MacKay), a Hitler Youth boy officer and they begin a friendship that develops into something deeper.

But fate will intervene; losing her mother to the Gestapo, Leyna feels her time is running out. Depositing her brother at her aunt’s for safekeeping, she continues at the workhouse. On arrival one morning, during a spot check for papers, Leyna escapes and attempts to outrun the SS officers. She will be caught and sent off to a camp. Losing contact with Lutz, Leyna struggles through the hardship, made even more challenging when she realises she is pregnant.

It will be some six months before the lovers’ paths cross again – Lutz gets assigned to the same camp as Leyna. But Lutz is now wiser and disillusioned by the war effort. He begins to hatch a plan to get them both away from an impending doom – before its too late.

The film shows an unexplored story from the second World War. Cornish appears uncomfortable in her role, rarely raising her voice, except once. MacKay is believable as the hormone-driven youngster who doesn’t understand why he alone cannot change the course of history. Stenberg gets the focus here and while she initially appears awkward, she comes into her own in the second half of the film.

Where Hands Touch is screening now.

3 stars

About Where Hands Touch

Written and directed by Amma Asante
Stars: Abbie Cornish, Amandla Stenberg, George Mackay, Christopher Eccleston


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