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Film Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give (2018)
20th Century Fox.

Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
Written by: Audrey Wells (screenplay by), Angie Thomas (based upon the novel by)
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Anthony Mackie, Common, KJ Apa, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby.

The Hate U Give is the latest in a number of fantastic young adult adaptations that are bringing important, complex and powerful themes to light on the big screen. The film first premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, but I caught this movie at Cineworld’s secret unlimited screening and I’m so glad they took a chance and screened this title. Much like one of the previous secret screenings, Love, Simon, most of the audience hadn’t heard of this film, as the most guessed titles were either Bohemian Rhapsody or Halloween, but the majority of the crowd stayed and were truly absorbed by the powerful story and incredible performances. The film superbly tackles some weighty themes, mainly racism and police violence, in a bold and powerful way.

The film is based on Angie Thomas’ bestselling novel and follows the life of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Air Jordans loving 16-year-old Starr Carter, a teen who struggles with juggling two worlds. Living in the predominantly black neighbourhood of Garden Heights and attending the mostly white (and privileged) Williamson private school, Starr has to switch between Garden Heights Starr and “Starr Version 2” to fit in with her friends, family and boyfriend. That’s until one fateful Saturday night when Starr witnesses the murder of her (unarmed) childhood best friend, Khalil (Algee Smith) who is shot by a white police officer. While dealing with her grief, Starr must decide whether she will speak out or stay quiet as the only witness of the crime, both in the face of police brutality and pressure from the local gangster King.

YA adaptation queen Amandla Stenberg’s phenomenal performance truly makes The Hate U Give such a powerful and moving film, and she’s supported by an absolutely brilliant cast. Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby (particularly the latter) are fantastic as her parents; both also torn between their roots at Garden Heights and wanting a better life for their children. There’s a complicated and messy past shared between the couple; they both had Starr when they were just teenagers and Hornsby’s tatooed Maverick ‘Mav’ Carter spent three years in prison to protect local drug lord (Anthony Mackie). Even though they’ve been through so much, they’re still so in love, Starr even refers to them as her OTP (one true pairing). I’ve got to admit though, it was a little weird to see Mackie in such a dark role (he’ll always be Falcon to me), but he definitely brought the intensity and threat to the story. Even Riverdale lead KJ Apa surprised me as Starr’s love interest Chris, who played scared boyfriend meeting his girlfriend’s dad absolutely perfectly in a surprisingly laugh out loud scene!

The Hate U Give is a phenomenally powerful and moving film that is so important, bringing to life the Black Lives Matter movement and highlighting the racial injustice young teenagers are facing today in America. The film deftly balances these themes with a brilliant coming of age tale that features a strong message; everyone has a voice. If there’s one film that I can urge people to see this year – it’s this one!