The Hate U Give (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

The Hate U Give (2018) deals with topics that are inherently emotional. It would be easy to take the subject and go over-the-top melodramatic, but this film keeps those moments under control. The cast is superb, and director George Tillman Jr. manages to introduce multiple perspectives while clearly taking a stance. By the film’s end, several tears had been shed and a few names were notched into my brain.

The Hate U Give definitely makes you think

Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) has two personas: her home person, and Starr 2.0 at her private, mostly white high school. After witnessing the shooting of her unarmed friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), by a police officer, Starr finds herself torn between the two worlds. She is pressured from different sections of each world to be something she isn’t sure she is ready to be.

There are many performances worth discussing this movie. Stenberg carries the emotion needed to be the leader of this film, although she isn’t the highlight of the film for me, personally. That honor belongs to Russell Hornsby, who plays Starr’s father, Maverick. He is such a complex character from the moment we meet him, and he has instructed his young children in the proper protocol they must follow if they are ever pulled over or questioned by a police officer. It’s intense, and the scene is vital as a large portion of the issues being addressed in the film – and Hornsby sells each moment with his performance. Many of the tears shed by me are a direct result to something his character says or is involved with. There are many other solid performances in the film, such as Regina Hall, K.J. Apa, Common, and Lamar Johnson – but Hornsby is the one that I keep thinking about long after the credits rolled.

The early scenes of Starr 2.0 are extremely important in setting up the subtle racism that will be a crux of Starr’s problems after Khalil is killed.  Starr’s friend, Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter), and her boyfriend, Chris (Apa), react very differently to Starr’s connection with the hot-button political issue. The whole city is split, choosing to either support Khalil or the Police Officer and Starr is confronted with perspectives she had never noticed prior to this division. Her journey into figuring out who she really is through this process is a great subplot that develops.

Movies that deal with subjects like this one are going to be polarizing. People who feel strongly one way or the other will likely not change their view from this movie, but it’s not without Tillman’s attempt to bridge the gap. There are characters in this film, like Carlos (Common), who don’t fall clearly into one camp or the other. Perspectives are given to try and open up the topic of conversation which ultimately comes down to a Tupac Shakur phrase that is extremely powerful.

Final thoughts…

In the end, The Hate U Give left me reeling and contemplating our society. I enjoyed the film very much, and definitely thought the performances alone make this worth your time. Even if you feel like you know where you stand on the issues tackled in the movie, it’s possible that this film will at least open your eyes to where the people on the other side are coming from. The Hate U Give earns the Must See rating.

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