STARRING: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, Anthony Mackie, TJ Wright, Dominique Fishback, Megan Lawless and Tony Vaughn
Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.
Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.
The Hate U Give is the feature adaptation of Angie Thomas’ young adult novel of the same name that was published last year. The film focuses on the duel lifestyle of Starr Carter within her neighbourhood of Garden Heights and going to a mostly predominantly white private school, Williamson Prep. When attending a party one weekend and bumping into childhood friend Khalil, a gunshot is fired and Khalil gives Starr a lift home. On the way home, they get pulled over by a white police officer who mistakes Khalil’s brush as a gun and fatally kills him. With her world shattered and Khalil’s death becoming a national news story, could Starr, the only witness of his killing, speak up for Khalil as tensions in the community reaches boiling point?
The Hate U Give is a very emotionally charged film that focuses on the main character and her family, about the struggle of not only that she has to cope with the tragic events of her friends death, but also maintain a front in her school as well as the neighbourhood about her being the witness, hoping that it doesn’t come out to the general public. There’s many elements as to why she and her family are afraid of this becoming public knowledge and, bar one sub-plot connected to it, I thought the film handled it pretty well. Starr living two lives, putting on a different facade at the mostly white private school was done well, bringing a different, more serious perspective on it that most of the time in films is handled in a more comedic tone. It’s also interesting how the school scenes have these blue faded tones, almost dull light in comparison to the bright colours used in Garden Heights where Starr can be herself, mostly. Amandla Stenberg gives a great performance as Starr Carter, carrying the weight of the film (let alone the burden of Khalil’s death) on her shoulders, dealing with post traumatic stress, figuring out her place in all of this mess as she believes she has to stand up for Khalil because no one else will, much to her mother’s earnestly placed dismay. It’s a dramatic coming-of-age arc for not only Starr but Amandla Stenberg as well that could put her towards consideration come award season. Another performance that can place one of the ensemble towards award season consideration is Russell Hornsby, playing the role of Starr’s father Maverick. Hornsby is a commanding presence throughout as a father that clearly loves his family, giving tough love and words of wisdom when called upon. He’s never condescending towards Starr’s pain and misery about Khalil’s death or what to do next, he’s there with her every step of the way, evening dealing with local drug dealer King, in order to protect her. He has a complicated history with Regina Hall’s Lisa, who also loves her children, but they come at odds as they have differences of opinion of how to raise their children. Should be noted that Hall is also good in this film too. After all, the films opening scene has Maverick teaching his children about what to do when the police pull them over.
As good as the film is, the sub-plot involving Anthony Mackie as local drug dealer King is one that didn’t work for me. I believe Mackie is a very good actor but for me personally I couldn’t buy him as this potential looming threat other the course of the film and I think it’s simply half being able to not unsee Sam Wilson/Falcon on screen and of course the way the character is written, which is basic local drug dealer 101. Another sub-plot invovling one of Starr’s supposed close white friends from Williamson is resolved in a way that I didn’t like. I get what they were going for it with, but in terms of execution I just didn’t play how one character went from cold to hysterics in a flash. The film attempts to juggle multiple issues/subjects to tackle from police brutality, the differences within the black community, how the system is unjust, black lives matter etc. and it does well enough to provide balance and a crash course into all these subject matters that the audience can take on board, I can see how some might find it to be at borderline preachy in terms of how it is delivered.
Though the film questionably be too long and slightly preachy, The Hate U give is an emotionally charged film with some very effective moments and great performances from Amandla Stenberg and Russell Hornsby. 7/10