REVIEW: Where Hands Touch

Year: 2018
Directed by: Amma Asante
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Amandla Stenberg, George MacKay, Christopher Eccleston

Written by Fiona Underhill

British director Amma Asante has prioritised telling the stories of black and mixed-race characters in period films during her career so far – a genre where they often they are over-looked and ignored. Her breakthrough feature Belle starred Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a real-life historical figure in 18th century period costume and stately homes – which is a setting that is usually dominated by white actors on British television and in film. Her follow up A United Kingdom was set in the 1950s and starred David Oyelowo as the King of Botswana who falls in love with a white British woman. Now comes Where Hands Touch and stars Amandla Stenberg as a mixed-race German girl who falls in love with the son of a Nazi officer. Asante has shown herself to be an empathetic filmmaker, exploring the nuances of situations where characters struggle with their identities.

Twelve years in the making, this has been very much a passion project for Asante, involving a lot of historical research into the 25,000 people of colour who lived in Nazi Germany. This film focuses on those who were known as the ‘Rhineland Bastards’ and were the result of French soldiers of African descent being in that area during WWI. Leyna (Stenberg) is the product of one such union between a soldier and her mother (played by Bright Star’s Abbie Cornish). She has a younger brother who is white and as a result, Leyna feels very much the odd-one-out. Although she is happy and mostly accepted in her small community in the Rhineland, things are becoming increasingly dangerous. Her mother knows that if the Nazis come looking for Jewish people and find Leyna, they will probably just cart her away as well. Her mother believes that they will be able to disappear in Berlin, only to find that the big city brings its own problems.

Leyna must carry false papers with her, stating she has been sterilised (to prevent her mixing with white Germans). However, she meets and falls in love with Lutz (George MacKay), whose father (played by Christopher Eccleston) is a high-ranking Nazi. George MacKay has impressed me in Pride and Captain Fantastic and he does well again here, portraying a ‘gung-ho’ wannabe soldier, eager to get the front and join in the real fight. However, there is obviously another side to him, shown through the sensitive portrayal of his tender romance with Leyna. Amandla Stenberg was recently seen in Everything Everything with Nick Robinson and will soon be starring in The Hate U Give. She gives a fantastic performance here as a young woman, struggling to find her place in the world.

There has been some controversy surrounding this film – that it is insensitive to show a romance (which includes a Nazi soldier) against the backdrop of the Holocaust. This film does not ignore the Holocaust, but it does choose to focus more on a little-known aspect of the war, portraying a minority that did exist and most people would not have considered before. Also, I can understand, in our current times, why portraying a sympathetic Nazi is problematic. However, I think it is realistic to show how easily a German teenager could be brainwashed into believing the propaganda he has been fed, whilst also retaining his humanity and being capable of loving a mixed-race girl. The evil is an external pressure, rather than inherent within him. It also contrasts Lutz with his father, who is jaded due to having lived through WWI. However, his father still carries out despicable orders to save his own skin. This film does not present the issues as black-and-white, the characters are complex and flawed, but that does not mean you can’t feel something for them. It is Leyna’s relationship with her mother (and her own identity) that is perhaps the most moving aspect of the film though.

I believe this filmmaker, these actors and this story deserves your support, so if you are able to find Where Hands Touch in a movie theater near you, give it a chance. It is on selected release in the US now, UK release date is to be confirmed.

Fiona’s Verdict:

4

 

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Geostorm

Year: 2017
Director: Dean Devlin
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Amr Waked, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris

Written by Chris Gelderd

When an internationally created series of satellites blanketed across Earth, controlled from the International Space Station, starts to malfunction and strange weather occurrences take place across the world, US President Palma (Garcia) demands it to be fixed.

Former station commander Jake Lawson (Butler) is commissioned to go up to the ISS and investigate and repair the fault. On Earth, Max Lawson (Sturgess) and his Secret Service girlfriend Sarah (Cornish) uncover a deadly conspiracy.

It seems somebody in the Presidential party wants the satellites out of action and has been sabotaging them, creating deadly weather that will build up to a Geostorm, killing millions. Only Jake and Max, millions of miles apart, can save the world, prevent the Geostorm and uncover the truth before it is too late…

Hello and welcome to the weather forecast from Jumpcut Online, but one you may be doubting due to the fact there have been rumours of a ‘Geostorm’ hitting cinema shores? What is a Geostorm? A Geostorm is a series of large consecutive weather disasters around the world that will wipe out cities, kill millions and re-shape Earth as we know it. Sadly, there is nothing of the sort in the ‘Geostorm’ movie and so, pretty much, is one big fake marketing campaign.

So. What can you expect? A Scottish actor with a bad American accent known as a Gerard Butler will sweep in from the West to lead this event. You may have experienced some intense activity from Butler in the past like ‘300’, ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ and, goodness, even ‘Phantom Of The Opera’. Butler usually causes chaos, but somehow he is a poor man’s Bruce Willis action hero, and delivers many cheap, fun bangs for your buck. Here, however, he blows in and fizzles out rather quickly.

The Butler today appears rather weak, lazy, bored and a little pasty around the edges. When the driving force behind such a weather event is this useless, it spells certain doom for the longevity of such an event as ‘Geostorm’.

Sadly, the Butler is just the head of the breeze blowing in, because behind him we have many other faces who just blow in, do what the script says and then fizzle out. We have the Abbie Cornish, the Ed Harris, the Andy Garcia and the Jim Sturgess winds who are your run of the mill supporting winds. Each character has been seen many times before in various genres, and they offer nothing new or engaging – it’s one big cliché and nonsense that none of them seem to eclipse.

I will say, just behind all the hot air is a little ray of sunshine dubbed Tabitha Bateman as Butler’s daughter. When a thirteen year old performs better than her elder, more acclaimed supporting cast, you know it’s a poor show of talent on the whole.

Brace yourselves, for the hot winds do not ease off over the 100 mins or so of this boring, hap-hazard storm. Freezing temperatures created by a terribly over-serious plot react badly with the hot winds and elongate everything. You’ll feel trapped. You’ll feel restless. You’ll feel tired. You’ve seen these sorts of disaster events done far better, such as the ones dubbed ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, ‘Volcano’ or even ‘2012’. They had a purpose and they were creative. They felt dangerous and left their mark visually with viewers with those big dramatic money shots. This does not.

This ‘Geostorm’ doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it some strange science-fiction adventure? Is it a family drama? Is it a disaster film? Is it a political thriller? It’s a big mess, and it shows. Too much gas and bloated weather pockets, not enough release.

Hot winds and freezing temperatures don’t react to make anything enjoyable, and sadly it’s not over yet. During this we will see a big old gust of smog roll in under the guise of CGI. All the smog you’ve seen before in trailers and marketing is as much as you see in reality. It’s the same old smog of people running away from CGI weather, mostly on beaches for some strange reason, and all of these moments last a minute or less. You will get fire, snow, tidal waves, hail and wind all in under 5 minutes. That’s your lot. If you’re expecting a pay-off for bracing this storm, you won’t get it. You don’t need to prepare yourself – you can stand out without aid and it will blow over you no matter how hard it tries to batter you with spectacle, danger, drama or forced emotion.

So looking ahead to when this storm passes, what will it leave? My answer? Nothing. There will be little damage left to you all once you emerge, and you will be more annoyed at the inconvenience than anything else. I can’t even lie and say there is anything positive to take away here.

The winds and temperature will die off as quickly as it came, and you won’t remember this storm in the days to come, and nor will it go down in history. Well, it might, as one of the most disappointing and lackluster Geostorms ever, due to the fact you never saw or experienced one at all.

Chris’ Rating: 1 out of 10