Warning: Some minor spoilers ahead for “The Hate U Give.”
“The Hate U Give” is a story about family, tragedy, love, and loss.
Adapted from Angie Thomas’ debut novel of the same name, “The Hate U Give” follows Starr (Amandla Stenberg), a 16-year-old girl who witnesses the shooting of her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith) during a traffic stop. Stuck between those who want her to speak out about the injustice and those who want her to stay silent, Starr is forced to make a decision.
Why you should care: It’s an important and relevant story to tell.
Thomas wrote a short story in college after the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant, but as the years progressed and more unarmed black people were killed by white officers, Thomas’ short story expanded into a novel and now a movie. Both the novel and movie are more than just stories about the Black Lives Matter movement, they’re tense and emotional explorations of how a community is affected and how the world reacts, told from the perspective of a teen forced to live it.
The title comes from Tupac Shakur’s acronym for THUG LIFE: “The hate u give little infants f—- everybody.” That acronym plays a large role in the movie. Khalil brings it up to Starr in the car before he is killed. Starr talks to her father about it. She realises even more of its implications in a harrowing scene towards the end of the film.
What’s hot: It’s led by a superb cast.
Stenberg is riveting as Starr. Whether she’s demonstrating the differences between Starr’s two versions – the one from her neighbourhood of Garden Heights and the one who attends a predominately white prep school – Stenberg captures the complexities of Starr’s experience. Her emotions are raw and on full display in every scene she is in. You can feel her struggle and pain when she’s at school and sees the students, including someone she considered her close friend, take advantage of Khalil’s death to skip classes in a fake protest. You can feel her fear when she’s threatened by King (Anthony Mackie), a drug dealer and leader of the King Lords gang, to stay silent about Khalil. You can also feel her resiliency when she stands up to fight for her friend and seek justice.
Then there’s Starr’s parents, Lisa and Maverick Carter, played by Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby, respectively. Maverick, a former member of the King Lords gang, is a doting father and extremely protective of his family. Lisa is a hardworking mother who wants her family to stay safe. Hornsby’s work in the movie is particularly impressive.
Adding to the cast is Common as Starr’s Uncle Carlos, a cop in the same department as the one who shot Khalil, and Issa Rae as April, an activist that throws her support behind Starr and her family.
What’s not: It’s a bit long.
At two hours and 12 minutes, the movie can start to drag towards the end. There are a few scenes that felt a bit too on-the-nose, but it was never enough to feel out of place or like it didn’t belong.
The bottom line: It’s not your typical YA movie.
Because “The Hate U Give” is adapted from a young adult novel, there are certain teen aspects to the film, like a prom scene and talk of Tumblr, but none of that takes away from the emotional and heavy topics covered in the movie.
There are other moments so intense that it’s hard to breathe. Despite knowing that the shooting is coming, it’s still jarring to witness. And the riots and threats from King are stressful to watch.
Though the movie can feel heavy, there are some moments of levity, particularly one scene where Maverick meets Starr’s secret white boyfriend, Chris (KJ Apa), and mistakes him for their prom limo driver until Lisa walks up to the door and welcomes Chris with a hug.
It’s an important movie that everyone should watch.
“The Hate U Give” will have a limited release Friday before hitting theatres nationwide Friday, October 19.
Editor’s note: Amandla Stenberg has spoken out about her preferred pronouns in the past, and in 2016 said that she preferred they/them, but later, used she/her. INSIDER confirmed her preferred pronouns with her representatives.
Watch the trailer for “The Hate U Give” below.
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