Movie Review: The Hate U Give Gets Real About #BlackLivesMatter
Updated: Nov 15, 2018
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Common, Anthony Mackie
What a time for this film to be released. Following the whirlwind of #BlackLivesMatter protests that have been taking place in the United States, it has come to no surprise that a novel and of course, a film based on the novel has come out of it.
The novel in question? "The Hate U Give", a young adult novel by Angie Thomas. To date, the novel has gotten numerous awards, some of them being the William C. Morris Award for best debut book for teens, the Odyssey Award for best children's audiobook, the Coretta Scott King Award for the best novel by an African American author for children, and the Michael L. Printz Award for best novel for teens. These awards are just the tip of the iceberg, however.
With the long list of awards that the novel has gotten, would the film be able to match up?
What is it about?
Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is a 16-year-old black girl who lives in Garden Heights, a mostly poor black neighbourhood that is fraught with problems. Unlike what one would expect, however, Starr attends an upper class private school that is predominantly white called Williamson Prep. Not wanting to be associated with stereotypes that are often tacked onto black people, Starr goes out of her way to avoid practicing any of it in order to not appear "ghetto".
Splitting herself between her Garden Heights and Williamson Prep personalities is the least of her problems, though, as she soon finds herself involved in something bigger.
After a gun goes off during a party Starr attends one weekend, her childhood best friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), offers to drive her home. She agrees.
It is during the drive home that Khalil is stopped by a white police officer. Remembering what her father had told her and her brothers when they were young, she immediately places her hands on the car dashboard and tells Khalil to do the same. Her father had been blunt about the racism faced by the blacks from the whites, and Starr was not one to play with fire. Unfortunately, Khalil does not take Starr's pleas seriously and repeatedly brushes off her concerns--this carelessness ultimately leads to his demise as the officer, who is prejudiced against black people, panics and shoots Khalil thrice, killing him.
This experience acts as the turning point for Starr to eventually be drawn towards activism. Traumatised by what she had seen and wanting justice, she draws onto what strength she has to stand up for her friend and of course, fight racism.
Is it worth a watch?
While I have not read the novel and therefore cannot compare it with the film, what I can do is give my thoughts on the latter simply for what it is. So here it goes.
What surprised me the most when I first watched "The Hate U Give" was how carefully balanced the story was. Balanced in what way, you ask? Well, balanced in the sense that it is largely free from bias. "The Hate U Give" does not demonise the white population, nor does it glorify the blacks. In fact, it even goes as far as to admit to faults that the black community has, thereby providing a more balanced storyline, which only works to its advantage. After all, as with just about everything in life, not everything is quite clear cut, especially when it has to do with the complexity of humans.
By crafting the story in such a way, "The Hate U Give" has made itself more relatable and in turn, more engaging.
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The protagonist Starr herself is quite nearly the epitome of neutrality in this movie. Although she does wear different "faces" depending on where she is, she does not discriminate anyone based on their race, nor does she champion a race simply because of that, race. What she focuses on and what drives her is the desire for equality. When it comes to racial clashes, what she sees isn't a confrontation between Good (Black) and Evil (White), but the action itself--discrimination.
It is through her experiences in this story that Starr starts to get drawn towards activism, and towards the end, blossoms into the young woman she initially wished she had the strength to be at the start. For this particular point, kudos to Amandla Stenberg, a rising star who is deserving of the attention she receives.
If there is a single piece of criticism that I have for the film (and I do), it is that it drags a bit at some parts. That aside, I find "The Hate U Give" an incredibly well-done, thought-provoking piece that should be given a go, especially by those who are interested in this subject matter.
"The Hate U Give" is now in cinemas!
Written by Crunch's Melissa Kartini