Ever since Twilight (2008) made it desirable for teenagers to be in complicated relationships, the teen-films that have followed continue to up the dramatic relationship ante.
The most despicably manipulative entry in this genre of boundary-pushing relationships is 2018’s Where Hands Touch, a film so intent on upping the teen-romance stakes that it positions the plight of those who lived in concentration camps during WWII as being #relationshipgoals.
The complication in Amma Asante’s romantic-WWII-drama is the relationship between fifteen-year-old Leyna (Amandla Stenberg) and her budding romance with Nazi-in-training Lutz (George MacKay) in 1940’s Germany. Leyna, who is of dark complexion, exists in a time where people of mixed-race were persecuted in a similar manner as the Jewish.
Leyna and Lutz find any reason to be together, often putting the safety of themselves and their families into jeopardy so they can frolic in a lake. Even in their first interaction, the film’s idea of a meet-cute involves Leyna being knocked down bloodily on the floor by Lutz as if the film were announcing this isn’t your typical boy-meets-girl love story.
Their love comes to full anthesis when Lutz takes it upon himself to protect Leyna as she is held prisoner in a concentration camp. It is here that Where Hands Touch, convinced by its delirious sense of self-importance, exploits the horrors of the Holocaust (the pain of which still echoes through today) to run home the message of love enduring all even if it means the murder of six million Jewish people.
A teen-romance that disguises itself as testimony to the travesties of war, it feels more appropriate to forget Where Hands Touch exists than it does to divulge in its attempt to make something cute out of genocide.
According to Asante in a November 2016 interview on Kermode & Mayo’s Film review, the movie was first intended to be shot in 2009 and had been launched at that year’s Cannes. The project however collapsed.