‘The Hate U Give’ | Film Review

Most young adult adaptations haven’t been the best-released ones, especially those involving a fantasy or a love story. Although some are con­sid­ered good de­pend­ing on who you ask. How­ever, when you look at the lat­est con­tem­po­rary drama “The Hate U Give”, it’s the kind that beats out all the rest, and it’s here to de­liver a com­pelling mes­sage. 

Based on Angie Thomas’ 2017 best­selling novel, Starr Carter’s (Amandla Sten­berg) life is in two dif­fer­ent worlds: the poor, mostly black neigh­bor­hood of Gar­den Heights, and the rich prep school she at­tends to get a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion. Af­ter she wit­nessed the fa­tal shoot­ing of her child­hood friend from a po­lice of­fi­cer, she must do what’s right to change this grow­ing prob­lem in so­ci­ety. 

Amandla Stenberg and Algee Smith in The Hate U Give (2018)

First hear­ing about the film and from glanc­ing at the trailer, it looked like it was touch­ing on rel­e­vant top­ics. Since its pre­miere at TIFF got sur­pris­ingly pos­i­tive re­ac­tions, I thought maybe this could be some­thing I was­n’t ex­pect­ing. Truth is, I hon­estly love “The Hate U Give”, and it’s go­ing be fresh in my mind till the year ends. 

Di­rec­tor George Till­man Jr. (Soul Food, No­to­rious) was per­fectly ca­pa­ble of han­dling the source ma­te­r­ial. Al­though it’s based on a novel, it’s a very timely prob­lem which hap­pens on a daily ba­sis. It al­most feels like Till­man wants to teach a les­son to the read­ers of the book and the young peo­ple go­ing out to see this. It’s well-di­rected with a 132-minute run-time, which did not feel long. 

It’s put to­gether by an ex­cel­lent screen­play adapted by Au­drey Wells, who sadly passed away from can­cer the day prior to the film’s re­lease. The screen­play was so good that it makes me want to read the book. Even with the changes that might dif­fer from the book, that would not be a real is­sue for peo­ple see­ing the movie. 

Tak­ing it over to Sten­berg, we need to see more roles from her be­cause she’s a nat­ural and re­mark­able young ac­tress. Most might rec­og­nize the 20-year-old as Rue in The Hunger Games or in Every­thing, Every­thing and The Dark­est Minds. Her role as Starr brought out re­al­ness that any­one can re­late to. How she is try­ing to bal­ance and fit into both re­al­i­ties while be­ing the one try­ing to speak up about the in­ci­dent is trou­bling. Above all, this is one of my fa­vorite per­for­mances of the year. 

Amandla Stenberg and Algee Smith in The Hate U Give (2018)

The af­ter­math of her friend Khalil (Al­gee Smith, De­troit) deeply af­fected her to the point where she can’t ex­plain that she knew him to her white friends Ha­ley (Sab­rina Car­pen­ter), Maya (Megan Law­less), or her boyfriend Chris (K.J. Apa, Riverdale). 

Rus­sell Hornsby (Fences) as Mav­er­ick, Star­r’s ex-con­vict fa­ther, is an­other stand out that’s on par with Sten­berg in his scenes. He has two scenes that make me want to teach my fu­ture kids lessons. The first is the open­ing where he’s telling his kids, as they’re younger, what to do when pulled over and giv­ing them a sum­mary of the Black Pan­ther’s ten-point pro­gram. He had such an in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance that I would­n’t be shocked if he gets a Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tor nom­i­na­tion. 

Other great sup­port­ing per­for­mances in­clude Regina Hall as Star­r’s mother; Issa Rae as ac­tivist lawyer April Ofrah; Com­mon as Star­r’s po­lice of­fi­cer Car­los, and Lamar John­son as Seven, Star­r’s half-brother. 

But what makes “The Hate U Give” mem­o­rable is the way it ex­am­ines racism and po­lice bru­tal­i­ties. As an African-Amer­i­can, even I know this coun­try still has a prob­lem with cops wrong­fully killing un­armed black men and women. When you con­stantly see this on the news, you might un­der­stand why peo­ple, in­clud­ing ath­letes like Colin Kaeper­nick, protest. These ac­tions can spark con­ver­sa­tions with dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties of all races. 

Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Common, and Amandla Stenberg in The Hate U Give (2018)

This year’s over­looked Blindspot­ting (I rec­om­mend) also tack­led gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and po­lice bru­tal­ity. Ap­proach­ing what Till­man ac­com­plished could have been a dif­fi­cult task, but it’s an ex­pres­sion of jus­tice and try­ing to make a change. 

If there were any is­sues, it would be An­thony Mack­ie’s per­for­mance as King, the lo­cal drug dealer. I’m not a fan of him, but it felt like a use­less char­ac­ter and a mis­cast role. Other than that, noth­ing else is re­ally nit­pick­ing wor­thy.  

In the end, “The Hate U Give “is eas­ily one of the best movies of 2018 and one of the best Y.A. adap­ta­tions ever made. Who would’ve thought I would love two movies based on Y.A. nov­els (the other be­ing Love, Si­mon)?  Timely with its sto­ry­telling and a great lead­ing per­for­mance from Sten­berg, every­body needs to see it for them­selves. Hon­estly, I would be bit­ter if this does­n’t get any sort of recog­ni­tion from the Os­cars.  

The Hate U Give is pow­er­ful, top­i­cal and stays with you. This adap­ta­tion shows how im­por­tant it is for every­one to un­der­stand a grow­ing is­sue in the coun­try. Grade: A-

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