The Girl Without Hands Movie Is Beautiful, Though Haunting

Celebrated French animator Sébastien Laudenbach’s debut feature film is a poignant and downright disturbing Brothers Grimm adaptation with distinctive visual style and a powerful story about the juxtaposition of greed and love.

The Girl Without Hands (2016, NR) is a pretty heavy story. Yet, there’s a reason the Grimm’s Fairy Tales have fascinated new generations of children since their heyday in the 1800s. Also known as “The Handless Maiden,” The Girl (Anaïs Demoustier) spends her time dreaming in the cozy apple tree behind her father’s mill, unaware that her branchy bower has been handed over to The Devil (Philippe Laudenbach) by her father (Olivier Broche).

The Girl Without Hands

2016, NR

Once the father realizes that he’s been tricked and that his daughter must now be given over too, he is beside himself. Since The Girl had kept herself sinless and her hands clean, The Devil is unable to take her. Not to be deterred, The Devil threatens to take the father if he does not chop off his daughter’s hands. She loves her dad, so she makes the sacrifice and she lets him do it. After that, The Girl embarks on all kinds of adventures – really scary and strange ones (this is a Grimm’s tale, after all). While there is no outright gore, there is some violence and moments that may be too intimate/adult and nightmare-inducing for the little ones.

The 2D animation style is spare, yet striking. I can’t say I liked it – it’s definitely not lush and inviting like Disney – but Laudenbach does have his own unique groove that’s haunting and hard to forget. The music score is minimal and the story is allowed to breathe with long passages of nothing but silence, or the sounds of the forest and streams. The limited dialogue is in French (and subtitled).

Younger kiddos probably won’t stick around long enough to see how it all shakes out – the oddly pulsating brushstrokes, and barely sketched-out characters who lack expressiveness, will likely have them looking for something else to feast their eyes on. But if they do see it through, beware that The Girl Without Hands might provoke some questions and explanations. All’s well that ends well, though: the proto-feminist upshot sees The Girl raising both her child and a splendid orchard all by herself – and completely happy with it all.

Will you be watching The Girl Without Hands with the kids? What are some movies you’ve seen as a family recently? Share with us!

Visit Common Sense Media for more info on this movie’s appropriateness for your child.


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