Before The Hate U Give begins director George Tillman Jr. comes on screen thanking the audience for coming to see the film and talks a bit about how movies can change the world and how it’s important to see films like The Hate U Give amongst the community.
Despite having read Angie Thomas’ New York Times bestselling book and knowing what was going to happen I was very affected by The Hate U Give, especially watching it in a week when Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court and the officer who shot Laquan McDonald was found guilty of second degree murder and sixteen counts of aggravated assault but NOT conduct unbecoming a police officer. I’d heard from people who saw earlier screenings that it would be very emotional and triggering if you have any issues with police and they were absolutely right. If you can see the movie in theaters and with some sort of support you absolutely should.
The Hate U Give is the story of Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a teen girl living in a low-income black neighborhood overrun by gangs while going to school at a primarily white private school. Like any teenage girl, she deals with boys, friend drama, fashion and annoying siblings. Unlike her peers though Starr also deals with having a second, more white acceptable, version of herself to make sure she doesn’t give anyone at her school a reason to call her “hood.” The complicated feelings of betraying her community and roots that come with the code-switching is something many viewers will be privileged enough to not have to deal with. Hopefully listening to Starr talk about the things her white peers can do without thought while her every move is calculated to never be seen as the scary black girl will sink in.
Her worlds are kept separate until one night after a party her childhood friend Khalil is killed by a police officer and Starr is the only witness. Thrust into the position of having to choose between protecting herself and her family or speaking her truth, Khalil’s truth, Starr grapples with issues that should never be put upon a teenager but have become increasingly too common.
Many argue that children should be kept innocent and that they don’t need to know about the ugliness of the world but The Hate U Give shows differently. The movie opens with a scene of Maverick Carter (Russell Hornsby) giving his three children the “how to behave around a police officer” talk that shows just how privileged that thinking is. But even not growing up with the shades drawn like her private school friends Starr still has plenty of innocence left to lose which we’re reminded of every time Starr and her friends playing Harry Potter is brought up. Kids traded wands and magic for guns and reality far before their time.
Racial tensions build in Starr’s school as she struggles with her white classmates treating her friend’s death as a reason to skip school while callously dismissing his life. At home, the gang leader, as played by Anthony Mackie who MCU fans might have a hard time seeing as the bad guy, has an iron grip on their community and threatens Starr and her family. An activist lawyer portrayed brilliantly by Issa Rae, comes to town and hopes Starr will speak publicly for Khalil, something she is reluctant to do for fear of becoming that poor black girl with a target on her back.
Stenberg is an amazing force as Starr. She goes from gooey eyed over her cute sneakerhead boyfriend, as played by KJ Apa (Riverdale), to steadfastly standing up for herself, her family, and her community.
As with any adaptations, there are some differences from the book. Some of the connections and conversations are removed which makes the movie feel a bit rushed and leave you wondering about some motivations. However, for the most part, it is a faithful adaptation of a powerful book that will hopefully make you want to change the world.
If after watching you are interested in more books like The Hate U Give that take on themes of marginalized teens dealing with the tragedy and injustices, check out Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro, Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed, Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Dear Martin by Nic Stone. Until then, The Hate U Give is available in bookstores and the movie is in select theaters now and opens nationwide October 22.
Pros: Powerful, necessary film. Great acting. Teens being teens. Rebellions are built on hope.
Cons: Feels a bit rushed. Inevitable nitpicking of book to movie adaptations. Be mindful of your triggers.