Movie Review: The Hate U Give

THE HATE U GIVE

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Algee Smith, Anthony Mackie, Lamar Johnson, K.J. Apa, Common, Issa Rae
Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
Written by: Audrey Wells
Based on the book The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Review by Mia Santos

I knew going into The Hate U Give that it would be a heavy one. This film doesn’t shy away from the tough topics currently being spoken about in the United States and Canada. This film further lifts the need for the #blacklivesmatter movement.  Through a tragic and beautifully, strong story the viewer is taken on a ride of the injustices that are being fuelled in between. Originally based off a best-selling novel titled Thug Life: The Have U Give Young Infants F*cks Everybody by Angie Thomas, a title based off Tupac’s song with the same name. This film is told through Starr Carter and displays the conversations, experiences and social ills that go on after a white police officer wrongfully shoots down a black teenager for grabbing a hairbrush out of the front seat of his car.

The film follows Starr Carter, played by the talented Amandla Stenberg, a black teenager who lives in poorer and rougher community called Garden Heights with her family. She calls this place home, and it was where her parents grew up as well. She describes her parents’ loving relationship, a strong one, where they are very much in love and aren’t afraid to kiss and cuddle in front of her and her siblings, a half-brother named Seven (played by Lamar Johnson) and little brother named Sekani.

Her family is a stable one that is full of love and support. They eat together, say grace and only want the best for each other.  She mentions the popular BBQ place, the local barber shop and her father’s convenience store in her neighbourhood. But when she talks about the local public school she tells the viewer, it’s “a place you go to get drunk, high, pregnant or killed. We don’t go there.” Instead, she and her brothers go to Williamson Prep, a primarily white, private school on the other side of town.

While at Williamson, she is Starr Version 2. A completely different side of herself to the Garden Heights version. One who does not give any of her fellow classmates a reason to stereotype her as “ghetto” or “hood.” She doesn’t wear her hoodie up. She swallows any aggression she may have. She also refrains from speaking in any slang despite the fact her boyfriend Chris (played by KJ Apa) and best friend Kayleigh do so without issues. It’s clear Starr struggles internally with her two different lives but feels she must keep these two different sides of her separate in order to succeed. The story sets us up for a fish out of water tale that quickly escalates into much more.

While attending a neighbourhood party in Garden Heights over the weekend, Starr bumps into a childhood friend she hasn’t seen in awhile named Khalil. After the party is abruptly cut short, she ends up driving late at night with Khalil. They share a tender moment where they kiss, and she tells him she has a boyfriend. “We’ve been together a long time, we got time,” he tells her before they are suddenly stopped by a police cruiser. The film opened with Starr’s father Maverick (played by Russell Hornsby) giving his three young children “the talk.” Not the birds and the bees talk but the one about what to do as a person of colour when you’re stopped by a police officer. Starr was only nine years old then.

Suddenly, she’s using the information she was taught years ago by promptly putting her hands faced down, visible on the dash and demanding Khalil who takes this whole encounter as a joke, to do the same. It’s a very frustrating and heart racing scene. The whole scenario further escalates to Khalil being shot several times. He bleeds to his death on the ground while a shocked Starr tries to understand what just happened to her friend before her eyes. The incident haunts Starr. We learn this isn’t her first time she’s witnessed someone die, but this time she struggles actually doing something about it.

Watching Starr unravel, forced to mature quickly and find her voice in all this is incredibly jarring, horrifying and inspiring all at once. This young woman endures so much in this film. It really shows the ignorance of those more privileged around her like her boyfriend Chris and best friend, Kayleigh. There is this amazing scene where Kayleigh tries to argue that “all lives matter.” Starr gives her a taste of what it’s like to be marginalized the way Khalil is after his death. In another scene, after Chris foolishly tells Starr he doesn’t see colour. Starr simply replies to him “If you don’t see my blackness, you don’t see me.” Her father Maverick has always told Starr not to forget that being black is an honour because she comes from greatness.

The Hate U Give embodies so much of what is going on in our world right now.  There were many times I felt so much anger and shame while watching this film. With recent tragedies happening all over the United States and videos of racist incidents being posted online, we are using these to bring awareness and educate. It’s safe to assume far too many white audiences didn’t know this sort of talk happened amongst POC.

I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be. Explaining to a young child that someone who you’re taught is supposed to protect you may treat you different and even hurt you just because of the colour of your skin. The way Khalil’s death is talked about and handled throughout the film, the lack of empathy from many and the sheer ignorance and blatant racism of the media valuing one life over another is hard to watch at times. We’re taken on the same wave of different emotions Starr battles within herself.

Verdict:

MUST SEE! Starr’s struggles throughout are so much bigger than her. Like many, she is part of this new American generation that is unfairly tasked with solving the social sickness they had no hand in creating, but are overwhelmingly the victims of. To see all this shown on the big screen and given this kind of platform is crucial to stopping the hatred spreading in our societies. This story is not only groundbreaking but important and should be seen by everyone. Conversations should be built around this film and the book it’s based on. We should look within ourselves on how to be allies and raise awareness and bring equality to minorities and people of colour.

Mia is a Toronto based writer and filmmaker. She is a self proclaimed comic book nerd, film buff and cat enthusiast. She has one short film under her belt titled Catch Up (2012) and you can read more of her film reviews on her blog The Catty Critic on WordPress.

Mia Santos

Mia is a Toronto based writer and filmmaker. She is a self proclaimed comic book nerd, film buff and cat enthusiast. She has one short film under her belt titled Catch Up (2012) and you can read more of her film reviews on her blog The Catty Critic on WordPress.

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