The Girl Without Hands

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Girl Without Hands
"The deceptively simple ink and watercolour animation places the focus on movement so that we understand the characters through their behaviour rather than any reductive set of fixed images."

Once upon a time there was a miller who wanted to kill a black pig to find food for his family. Instead, he was persuaded to accept a bargain: give me what is behind your barn and I will give you untold riches. He thought this referred to his old apple tree. Of course, his daughter was in that tree. Even young children will recognise the lesson: never trust strangers who make offers like that, especially if they seem to be other than human.

Is the girl doomed? Not wholly. She is so good and pure that she retains both soul and body, all but for her hands, which her father is persuaded to cut from her. Now she must wander out in the world and try to make her way despite her disability. Some wonderful things await her, including a handsome prince who will make her golden hands, but she must face many more trials along the way.

Based on a story by the Brothers Grimm, this is a tale that retains its original darkness but is told in a way that's not too disturbing for young children. The deceptively simple ink and watercolour animation places the focus on movement so that we understand the characters through their behaviour rather than any reductive set of fixed images. Even their colours change, adding to the sense that something magical is at work.

Writer/director S├ębastien Laudenbach paces the story well so that it's easy for young viewers to follow but doesn't drag, sitting comfortably within its 76 minute running time. Its episodic nature means there are plenty of suitable moments to pause and take breaks if viewing it at home.

There's an old fashioned, storybook quality to this that suits the nature of the tale. It's elegantly realised and has plenty of appeal for adults as well as its target audience.

Reviewed on: 25 Nov 2017
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When a miller sells his daughter to the Devil, her purity saves her but she loses her hands and must endure a life full of challenges.

Director: Sébastien Laudenbach

Writer: S├ębastien Laudenbach, based on the short story by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm

Starring: Anaïs Demoustier, Jérémie Elkaïm, Philippe Laudenbach, Olivier Broche, Françoise Lebrun

Year: 2016

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: France

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