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Film reviews: Where Hands Touch — a war crime less known


Where Hands Touch

(12a) ★★★✩✩

AS A trailblazing black female British film-maker, Amma Asante frequently makes history, becoming the first black director to open the London Film Festival in 2016, for example. Just as extraordinary, though, is how she is reclaiming history.

Belle, her 2013 Austen-era costume drama much beloved by Oprah Winfrey, told the true story of the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy officer and an African slave. A United Kingdom (2016) was another revelation, this time bringing to light the true story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the first president of Botswana, and his interracial marriage to an English secretary (Rosamund Pike).

Now Asante is back, flinging open another fresh window on history. Set in 1944 Berlin, Where Hands Touch is another biracial romance, this time based on true circumstances rather than a true story.

There were approximately 25,000 black citizens in Nazi Germany — ‘so few of us that in my entire 15 years I never saw another soul like me,’ narrates our heroine, Leyna (a quietly astonishing Amandla Stenberg). The illegitimate daughter of a white Aryan mother (Abbie Cornish) and an absent Senegalese soldier father, Leyna considers herself a good German girl. But the Nazis see her as a ‘Rhineland bastard’ and intend to sterilise her — and considerably worse.

As the noose tightens, Leyna captures the heart of a young SS officer (George MacKay), whose father (Christopher Eccleston) advises him to ‘wear the mask that will get you through the war’. But what can Lenya do when her skin colour betrays her?

More like a 1950s melodrama than a radical piece of millennial revisionism, Asante goes all out to strum on your heart-strings but her plot twists are as implausible as the studio lot production design. Still, it’s a fascinating take on the horrors of World War II and one that confirms Stenberg as one of the most accomplished rising stars of her generation. Larushka Ivan-Zadeh

The verdict

The war movie genre gets ‘woke’ with this fascinating biracial take on surviving Nazi rule.

Pokémon — Detective Pikachu

(PG) ★★★✩✩

The words ‘first ever live-action Pokémon adventure’ may fill you with horror. While it’s best to stick with your first instincts, there are silver linings for Poké-sceptics and chief of those is Ryan Reynolds.

He’s the voice of Detective Pikachu, a Pokémon trying to solve a mystery in Ryme City where Pokémon live side by side with humans, including Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy and even Rita Ora.

Pikachu bursts on to the scene like a cuddly PG Deadpool, all surreal humour, noir styling and a serious coffee habit.

It’s funny enough for parents to suck it up while children can giggle at the in-jokes and the silliness.


The Hustle (12A)

A lack of advance press screenings plus a strict reviews embargo means there’s a suspicious whiff of eau de poisson about this female remake of 1989 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It stars Anne Hathaway in the Michael Caine role and Rebel Wilson as her Steve Martin.

Arctic (12A)

Ever-reliable Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (aka Felicity Jones’s dad in Star Wars: Rogue One) squints intensely, wrestles with snow and munches on raw fish as an air crash victim struggling to survive in the Arctic.

Amazing Grace (U)

Crafted from never-before-seen footage shot by Oscar-winner Sydney Pollack, this posthumously reassembled documentary shows Aretha Franklin recording Amazing Grace, the most successful gospel album of all time, at a Los Angeles baptist church in 1972.

The Corrupted (18)

Shucking off his pretty-boy looks, Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games, Me Before You) plays a skinhead ex-con/boxer in this crime-thriller set against the legacy of the London Olympics. It also features Timothy Spall and Mr 2012 himself, Hugh Bonneville.