"A relevant, important film featuring a stunning, moving performance from Amandla Stenberg "
There have been so many bad book to film adaptations that I was worried for the legacy of Angie Thomas’ novel The Hate U Give when this film was announced. So I was incredibly relieved to learn that the movie is loyal to the source material and really does it justice.
Amandla Stenberg plays Starr Carter, a high school girl who is living two lives – she is one person when she goes to school in a primarily white neighbourhood and another at home in Garden Heights. One night, she 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 her mouth shut.
The timing of this film could not be more relevant. Over the past few years, we have seen so many headlines about unarmed black men being killed by white police officers, who then don’t get charged for it, so it is good to see a movie address this issue head-on, particularly one aimed at young adults. Besides police brutality, it takes on other big, important themes such as white privilege and how the system is designed to keep black people at the bottom. It is a fictional story but it's so close to real events that you can't help but be moved by it.
I would go as far to say that The Hate U Give should be shown in schools for educational purposes. It delivers a really powerful, timely message but in an accessible, digestible way. It gets across these serious, heavy messages without being too obvious, over the top or overwhelming. It finds the right balance.
Stenberg’s performance blew me away. Most people will only know her from The Hunger Games so this is such a breakout role and will open many doors for her. She has really proved her talent here. She is supported by Regina Hall as her caring mum Lisa and Russell Hornsby as her dad Maverick - a former King Lord who encourages his daughter to speak out to fight the system.
KJ Apa was given a basic role as Starr’s concerned boyfriend but it was refreshing to see this part be filled by a guy, as that is usually a female role. Initially, I wasn't sure about Mackie as King as the character is an awful person in the book, which isn’t how I perceive Mackie, but King had been really toned down for the film, so it was OK.
The running time of 2 hours 12 mins may be off-putting to some but it is all worth it. It doesn’t feel that long, a lot happens and it is all necessary, and it never drags.
The Hate U Give is both powerful and entertaining, eye-opening and enjoyable, and proves that young adult films can be relevant and take on important, shocking issues such as police brutality and racism.