The Hate U Give

Directed By George Tillman Jr

Starring – Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby

The Plot – Starr Carter (Stenberg) is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil (Algee Smith) at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violent content, drug material and adult language

POSITIVES

– A one woman wrecking crew of a performance. Stenberg has impressed me in films like “Everything, Everything” and even being one of the few bright spots in “The Darkest Minds”, but this is really the first time with her that I have felt shaken by a performance. Starr’s strength and perseverence are her greatest feats, but it’s in Stenberg’s wide range of heart and fragility for the things going on around her that make her irresistible as a protagonist, and it provides the first step in an inevitably bright future ahead for this leading lady.

– Two films for the price of one. Often in these modern day depiction films, you will be subjected to either a poignant conversation piece that ignores the qualities of a budget Hollywood production, or you will get an eclipsing piece of cinematic drama that sidetracks on its intelligent material, but “The Hate U Give” never restricts its boundaries, giving us a free-flowing narrative with expanding characters on top of commentary on racial and law abiding divides that never shies away. In whole, this is a film that satisfies both ends of the spectrum with audience motivation, and certainly brings with it a sense of staying power that is anything but easily forgettable.

– Above all else, a responsible film. What is so intriguing about Tillman’s directing when combined with Audrey Wells all-inclusive screenplay, is that this is a movie that gauges output on every side of the layered debate between law and citizen, as well as black and white that so much of the movie centers on. It’s refreshing because in this story there are characters of both color who are both good and bad, racist and not, who conjure up a unique perspective that doesn’t have to be cut-and-dry to sell its narrative. Particularly in offering the audience valued minutes to understand a cop’s perspective could forcefully sink the film for the majority of audience going to see the film, but Tillman feels obliged in understanding that these men and women in uniform aren’t just another evil villain, they are every bit as frightened and non-communicative as the people they instill justice upon.

– Enticing photography and overall cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. Beyond just his ability to shoot a beautiful canvas, complete with these alluring roaming movements of the camera capturing the very essence of the town, it’s Mihai’s subtle erasing of color in his scenes of the past that really channel the absence of love and light from the sequence, as well as these soft, tender moments between black families that you unfortunately don’t see too often in films. This allows us the audience to adapt to this family smoothly, whether you relate to their trials and tribulations or not.

– The film also does an articulate job of outlining the two worlds around Starr, as well as the two sides she displays (Black and White), that she unfortunately must endure every day. Considering she is a black student who is going beyond typical territory lines at an all-white Catholic high school, It’s interesting to see the dynamic comparisons that she shares with friends of and opposite of her color that force her to abide by being someone she isn’t. These are perhaps the most interesting scenes of the movie to me, because it hints at even the slightest things like speech patterns and social media postings having an effect on subliminal racism.

– Free range of emotional resonance. It’s rare anymore that a film will take you on a roller-coaster of release that endures so many different emotions, but I tell the truth when I say “The Hate U Give” left me reeling from the surreal imagery and events that this movie threw at me. I laughed during scenes of release, I cried for Starr’s growing disposition against an enraged society, I feared for the victims who in this case are the only survivors, and I roared during scenes of intoxicating inspiration. It would be difficult to think of another film that has had this kind of influence over me in 2018, and it serves as a testament to Starr’s story, in that it struck so hard with a middle aged white male who couldn’t be further from this girl.

– At just over the two hour mark, this is a film that takes its time with many of the storytelling arcs, and this is no more prominent than during the film’s opening act. These incredibly touching and precedent-setting thirty minutes take their time in getting to the meat of the story, because it wants you to not only get to know these people, but also take stock in the surrounding neighborhood they’re selling. This feels very much like a neighborhood family that bleed as one, and that sense of unity is something that develops cohesively throughout the film, bringing to light a feeling of values that hit close to home. It was refreshing to see “My” neighborhoods depicted, and not for the bad reasons that stereotypically supplant themselves in big screen focus.

– A fictional story that transcends this label by touching on all too familiar material. Once in a while, a film will come along that is deemed to have “Perfect timing”, and that couldn’t be more accurate than this film. Far beyond just being entertained by a movie, the best ones should make you think and even resonate closely for replicating a world not far from our own, and “The Hate U Give” has this benefit in spades. Films like these need to be supported for their abrasive covering, if only for the way they challenge the status quo, and no current film deserves success more because of it.

– Media manipulation. You’ve heard this term a lot recently. Usually it’s in the right or left’s slandering of political stratosphere, but Tillman uses it to subtly whisper how outlets depict the black community, often reaching for the craziest looking citizen in the bunch to sell their narrative. Not only is this greatly important to what is transpiring in this film, but it also offers an illuminating light to news junkies who overlook these sort of vivid intentions as nothing more than coincidence. The news coverage here is immensely important, and the way that he channels it feels every bit as sharp as it does revealing.

NEGATIVES

– For my money, the ending is a bit too neat and tidy to be taken at truth value. I don’t feel like Tillman’s picture is reaching for a solution measure with the on-going conflict, but the one given in this film is far fetched at best, conjuring up the one single instance in the film where this whole thing actually felt like a movie. Because of this, the film’s suffocating tension just kind of slowly omits away in the closing moments, feeling like it never ends on the single moment that strikes the loudest.

9/10

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