Gut-wrenching doesn’t begin to describe the experience of watching “The Hate U Give”. Maybe it was the torment our main character (brilliantly played by Amandla Steinberg) undergoes as her world unravels after watching her best friend (played by Algee Smith) get shot to death during a routine police stop? Perhaps it was Starr (Steinberg) enduring quite an awakening to the world she must navigate and the different rules African Americans must live by. “The Hate U Give” made me feel as if I’ve been living in a bubble and director George Tillman popped it revealing a world where the perception of equality is alive and well but the reality is that we are from it. While “Blindspotting” got our attention and “Sorry To Bother You” aimed to start a discourse, “The Hate U Give” grabs you by collar and forces audiences to look at a world most would soon to forget.
The late Audrey Wells is indeed the unsung hero behind this release. While “Blindspotting” and “Sorry To Bother You” struck an emotional chord with audiences, Wells did more to humanize the racial divide in the way she adapted Angie Thomas’s novel. Seeing these horrific realities and heartbreaking moments through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old brought home the idea that America is raising a new generation of citizens dealing with many of the same problems their parents and grandparents have always been dealing with. Neither the book nor the film attempts to solve these problems as that would have shifted the story away from its entirely realistic tone.
They say casting is everything and Tillman nailed his casting decisions for “The Hate U Give.” Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall are perfect as Starr’s parents. Each having their distinct imperfections only enhanced the level of buy-in from the audience. The chemistry between Hall, Hornsby, and Steinberg was through the roof. However, the most powerful moments in the film don’t take place in their crime-ridden neighboorhood. “The Hate U Give” really takes off when we see Starr interacting with her classmates at the prep school she’s enrolled in. Her parents decided not to send Starr and her brother to the neighboorhood high school due to the crime issues plaguing that school. Starr transforms while at school to ensure that she’s able to blend in with her classmates. It’s assimilation that’s not forced but is understood when anyone walks through the halls of this school. Her tone, dress, and the way she talks changes in the hopes of being accepted. However, as news of the shooting makes it on the news, the students at her prep begin to show their true colors. Starr’s classmates start staging protests without knowing why and begin taking up causes to be one of the many protesters outside their school. This enrages Starr, and that’s when the film starts to soar. Tillman’s highlighting that dichotomy between the two cultures shined a spotlight on what ails our country to this day. How can we make an impact on racial relations when we’ve not taken a moment to identify these issues and charted a course to a solution?
While “The Hate U Give” certainly won’t compete with the like of “Venom” at the box-office, it certainly begs to be seen if for no other reason to hopefully move individuals to begin a discourse that’s long overdue. My rating on this release is a strong 4.5 out 5 Stars.