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.