The Hate U Give: Film Review

From Eric Garner, Tamir Rice to Philando Castile, there have been so many headlines over the past few years about black men getting killed by white police officers and then them not being charged for it. The Hate U Give is the first studio-backed young adult movie to address this directly, and it is just as powerful and important as Angie Thomas‘ novel of the same name.

Amandla Stenberg plays Starr Carter, a high school girl who witnesses her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith) get shot multiple times by a police officer during a traffic stop after a house party. Starr is the only witness, but at first she doesn’t want to make her identity known, as it could put her and her family in danger with King (Anthony Mackie), head of the King Lords gang, who Khalil was selling drugs for. However, she soon realises that nothing will ever change if she keeps quiet.

I was a huge fan of Thomas’ novel and I’m happy and relieved to report that this film adaptation does it justice, which is a rare find. It doesn’t include everything but it is very loyal, carries the same message and is just as eye-opening as the book. It got me in the feels just as much and depicted the major dramatic moments in the exact way I hoped for. It is a fictional story but it’s so close to real events you can’t help but be moved by it.

Stenberg was such a good casting choice and this is definitely a breakout role for her, proving she is one talented lady. Her performance was fantastic. I also loved Regina Hall as her caring mum Lisa and Russell Hornsby as her dad Maverick – a former King Lord who encourages his daughter to speak to fight the system. KJ Apa was cute as Starr’s white boyfriend Chris and will definitely bring in the Riverdale crowd but that’s about it. At first I wasn’t sure about Mackie as King as the character was a real nasty piece of work in the book and I didn’t buy that – I see Mackie as a good guy – but King has been toned down and is nowhere near as bad onscreen as I thought he was going to be.

Some people will probably think the film is too preachy but it hits the right balance, and it needs to have some message due to the nature of the film. It’s really important and should be used for educational purposes – making people aware of police brutality, white privilege, and how the system ensures black people stay at the bottom. It takes on big themes but gives them to us in digestible chunks. It also helped make me aware of the stupid, ignorant stuff white people – which includes me – say about race to black people, like an exchange between Chris and Starr when he says he “doesn’t see colour”. Hopefully films like this will help open our eyes some more.

I was initially put off by the running time of 2 hours 12 mins because I thought that’s way too long for a young adult movie, but it doesn’t feel it. A lot happens, it’s all necessary, and it whips along at a decent pace. The screenplay by Audrey Wells, who recently passed away, was hard-hitting but also perfectly captured the way teenagers talk today.

The Hate U Give proves that young adult films can be relevant and take on important, shocking issues such as police brutality and racism. It is incredibly moving and I had tears in my eyes on three separate occasions!

Screening as part of LFF this weekend. In cinemas Monday 22nd October 

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