Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: 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 based on the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller by Angie Thomas and stars Amandla Stenberg as Starr, with Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Common, Anthony Mackie and Issa Rae.
Very rarely does a young adult film come out that tackles so many complicated issues in a way that is relatable to people outside of the intended audience. Eighth Grade came out a few months ago as the gold standard for young adult movies, but The Hate U Give might be just as good if not better. While the messages are almost polar opposite, films like this succeed due to the incredible level of emotional connection that is developed with their characters. Fueled by a breakout performance by Stenberg and a gripping supporting role from Hornsby as well as a story that keeps you captivated for the entire 132 minute runtime make The Hate U Give not just one of the best young adult movies of the year, but flat-out one of the best movies of the year.
The film follows Starr (Stenberg), a young black girl who comes from a poor, predominantly black neighborhood but attends a private high school in an affluent, predominantly white town. After she witnesses her childhood Khalil (Algee Smith) get killed at a traffic stop by a white police officer, Starr’s two worlds collide as Starr must choose between which one of these worlds she wants to stay true to. The strongest part of this movie has to be story and the plethora of real-world issues that this movie dissects at such an intricate and detailed level. Many people may go into this film with the perception that the theme of this movie is just, “all white cops are bad and all black people are innocent,” and they will be turned off by that. However, this movie blurs the lines multiple times on these issues and illustrates that things are not as easy as they appear. The themes of this movie are never depicted as morally one-sided, and every character and issue lies somewhere in the middle of where we can easily identify and empathize with most of not all of the characters. I applaud the writer and director for creating characters, dialogue, and a plot that covers so many distinct, detailed issues movies like this rarely ever cover. With issues that are race related, class related, or family related, this movie spares no details when it dives into these issues and does it in a way where the audience can at the very least empathize where these characters and the struggles they go through. However, none of this would be successful without the power demonstrated by Stenberg in the lead and Hornsby in a supporting role. I could never imagine the pain that this situation caused someone like Starr had gone through, and there were multiple scenes that pushed me to my emotional edge. These scenes were so raw and powerful and it amazed me that Stenberg could successfully portray these emotions so effortlessly. I am not sure where this performance came from after the disaster that was The Darkest Minds, but I would not be surprised if in the next five years Stenberg becomes an A-list movie star. Outside of Stenberg, Hornsby is brilliant in his supporting role as Starr’s father who represents the moral neutral ground of the movie. While he has his checkered past, he recognizes the mistakes he made and does not want his children to fall into the same pitfalls that he did. Hornsby’s ability to easily communicate this message not just to his children, but to the general audience as well is just one of the many reasons why The Hate U Give far exceeds the expectations I had going into it.
Overall, The Hate U Give exists in a very tricky spot by nature, but flawlessly balances the world it lives in with the world it reaches. The way that this movie balances a complex narrative while also showcasing that these issues are complicated and can be viewed from a multitude of angles is rarely seen, especially in a film targeted at a younger demographic. The sad part about this film is that the people who need to see it the most are the ones least interested in watching it, so it is up to the people who do watch it to spread its message and help those who are ignorant become more understanding.
Overall Score: 10/10