The Hate U Give (2018)

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Based on a 2017 novel sharing the same name, this drama release certainly releases a perfectly pent up rage to the system and following the solid talents of its lead, ‘The Hate U Give’ becomes a film that well and truly took me by surprise.

Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), her brother and half brother attend a popular school away from the predominantly black neighbourhood where they grew up and live. On a drive home from a party in this part of town, Starr and childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith) are pulled over by a white cop and she witnesses Khalil getting shot. In the tornado of anger that follows, Starr must decide whether she can stand up and find her voice to speak out about what she saw.

George Tillman Jr. is a director who’s been behind the camera for comedies on the most part, so this is a fair departure from his previous work. He’s taken from the source material of Angie Thomas’ book and with Audrey Wells’ screenplay, this becomes a powerful recipe for a motivational, provoking piece of drama. Tillman Jr. ensures the film has more than a couple uses of commanding imagery; ones that evoke clear parallels to the saddening events frequently seen from America and their police against black people.

It’s a film which had me almost on the verge of tears not just once but a few times. This emotion stems from an enraged kind of sadness which surges up and out as the narrative progresses to some brave places and the injustice keeps on going. The whole issue of black lives mattering is a constant thread and this front which Starr places on herself away from her home of Garden Heights, an embodiment of nonthreatening, perfectly proper schoolgirl to cater to the white students is thematically strong throughout.

‘The Hate U Give’ does have some necessary sprinkles of charming dialogue too, moments that save the movie from being too melodramatic. Chats about Harry Potter or what dish mac n cheese is really make the characters feel real. There isn’t just frustration to the police brutality to be had, there are humourous aspects which tie in nicely amongst the more emotional, drama driven beats. There are a couple of cases where dialogue feels fairly on the nose and that stale YA adaptation aura threatens to wash in but it often escapes those clutches and is an extremely relevant film with a chorus of mighty performances.

None more so than Amandla Stenberg who is a sensation as Starr. She truly lights up the film, as her character name suggests she really is a dazzling star in this, her smile is infectious and the neutral sitting back approach of her almost double life is perfectly performed leading her to act with great explosions of emotion when the drama boils over.

‘The Hate U Give’ is a movie that must be seen, it’s got a lot to say and there’s an unmistakable quiet buzzing of anger which rises and rises to dramatically outstanding effect.

8/10

 

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Fruitvale Station (2013)

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Not knowing anything about the true life case of this movie’s focus point, I can unequivocally say that this a biographical drama that utterly buries into the life and character of a man who we get to know and therefore like. It’s heart rending, powerful and gripping as it looks at life and death.

Based on the real life events at Fruitvale Station of the Bay Area Rapid Transist system in California, this bio-pic follows 21 year old dad of one Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) who is trying to live a better life for the sake of his daughter and partner Sophina (Melonie Diaz). On New Year’s Eve Oscar, Sophina and their friends go out to celebrate but their night ends up going fatally wrong.

Just the way we see day to day life helps us as the audience get on board with Oscar. He may have had a rocky past, lied and been involved with drugs but what matters is we see his progression and all those negative aspects actually aid in making him more human, a person with flaws like most of us. Every step of his life, from being brilliant with Tatiana, his daughter or caring about his mother shows us what a genuine friendly man Oscar was.

Ryan Coogler directs this film with a very motivated sense to stay true to the heart of Oscar and ensure those that watch feel the pain of the injustice served to a kind and young individual. The family of Grant of course worked very closely and I’m sure they’re humbled and proud of the work Coogler created because with the 16 mm format, the locations, the screenplay, everything feels and looks so real that it’s almost a glossy documentary. Also, the fact it was his debut feature promises great things from Coogler, now with ‘Creed’ under his belt too.

This is a very sobering movie, that leaves you very quiet and sucker punched as the credits roll and see the true life pictures on the anniversary of Oscar Grant’s death. I do admit I didn’t hear or know of this atrocity before hearing about the film so thankfully this movie sheds light on something I feel everyone should know. By placing in the mobile phone footage at the beginning it brings everyone else up to speed with what happened and sets the tone of the film running.

Michael B. Jordan is an astonishing presence in this, he’s outstandingly convincing as a fun yet caring father, trying and loving boyfriend and son. He plays the darker and aggressive edges very well just showing enough but not too much. He makes sure he gives Oscar empathy so we understand his journey and feel moved when he’s subjected to the sadly, very real and current act of police brutality. Octavia Spencer is a tower of strength as Wanda, his mother. Always wanting to seem strong and wish the best for her boy, it’s crumbling to watch her reaction when she knows Oscar has died. Melonie Diaz is a perfect note to compliment Jordan, she’s got a fun side but is very real in her emotions for wanting more of an honest man and of course when she wants answers near the end.

One of the more impacting films I’ve watched, leaving me shocked and saddened to tears for the atrocious handling of a night out. It’s thought provoking, relevant, powerful and so moving.

8/10