Do you love teenage coming-of-age romance movies but wish they could involve genocidal fascist regimes? Where Hands Touch is the movie for you.
The film follows Leyna (Amandla Stenberg), a biracial teenager in Nazi Germany who falls in love with Lutz, a Hitler youth whose father is a decorated Nazi soldier. Think Nicholas Sparks meets Mein Kampf.
Critics were appalled at the movie’s portrayal of Jews in Nazi Germany. But while the movie’s realism is indeed suspect, the real problem is the movie makes Nazis look too good.
Where Hands Touch intends to show love can thrive under incredibly dire circumstances. It’s the common beat at the heart of every misty-eyed romance. But a wistful teenage love story set in Nazi Germany feels weird, especially in a post-Charlottesville America where white nationalists and neo-Nazis are emboldened thanks to the white supremacist occupying the White House.
In Variety, Stenberg defended the film for spotlighting the forgotten experiences of biracial people in the 20th century.
“We lack a range of the experience of black people throughout history, let alone a story about someone who is biracial,” Stenberg told Variety.
With so much whiteness in media, it’s easy to forget there have always been people of color, with their own stories, on the forgotten margins of history. Where Hands Touch is a well-intentioned chronicle of a biracial girl’s experience in a time and place where people legitimately might not think biracial people actually existed.
The problem is that her seemingly harmless teenage romance humanizes Nazis. It’s possible the movie will handle this subject well, or at least less sympathetically than the trailer implies. It paints Lutz as a heartfelt young man and his father as a concerned parent.
Over the past few years, blockbuster hits like Get Out, Crazy Rich Asians and others have reminded us the importance of representation in film. It’s important to hear neglected voices and tell overlooked stories. Just maybe without heartfelt Nazis.