Where Hands Touch
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Where Hands Touch

Where Hands Touch

With her 2013 period drama “Belle,” director Amma Asante deftly handled the social uncertainties of a mixed-race aristocrat Ray & Liz in 18th-century England, caught between worlds without firmly belonging to any of them. Asante offers a similar predicament in “Where Hands Touch,” a World War 2 drama about a secret affair between a black German teenager and a member of the Hitler Youth, but her themes of identity and racial persecution are muddled by a star-crossed love that drifts from unlikely to absurdly implausible. Playing the daughter of a Senegalese father and an Aryan mother, Amandla Stenberg carries the magnetism she brought to her breakthrough role in the YA romance “Everything, Everything,” but she’s betrayed by a stilted rendering of a rarely illuminated piece of history.

Of the approximately 25,000 black people living in Germany at the time, several hundred were called “the Rhineland bastards,” the Mario offspring of black colonial troops fighting for the French in World War I and white German women. While the Nazis did not mark them for extermination, they were treated as an inferior race and subjected to relentless persecution. With 1944 Rhineland as a starting point for her story, Asante follows 16-year-old Leyna (Stenberg) as her devoted single mother (Abbie Cornish) whisks her and her white younger brother (Tom Sweet) off to Berlin in search of a better, safer life. Leyna’s uncle secures falsified papers attesting to her sterilization and, after she’s expelled from school because of her race, her mother gets her a factory job.

Yet Leyna can only hold off the danger for so long, and when she catches the attention of Lutz (George MacKay), a Hitler Youth member more by coercion than belief, that danger is amplified. As the Nazis working aggressively to clear Berlin Step Sisters of Jews, they also find Leyna an easy target, but she and Lutz steal away to hidden pockets of the city and the countryside to pursue a friendship that quickly blossoms into young love. The war eventually tears all these characters asunder, but fate has its own hand to deal, a fistful of aces made possible by Assante relentlessly stacking the deck.

Duration: 122 min

Release:

IMDb: 4.8

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Where Hands Touch
Where Hands Touch