The Hate U Give (2018)
The Hate U Give (2018)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 12 min.

Release Date: October 19th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: George Tillman Jr. Actors: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Common, Algee Smith, Issa Rae, K.J. Apa, Sabrina Carpenter, Dominique Fishback, Lamar Johnson, Megan Lawless

 


 

“W

hen it happens, don’t act mad.” Maverick (Russell Hornsby) and Lisa Carter (Regina Hall) sit their children down at the dinner table to have “the talk.” But it’s not about topics one might assume; for this African-American family, they must dedicate time to educate their loved ones on how to act and react around cops. Starr (Amandla Stenberg) is only 9 years old and her brother Seven (Lamar Johnson) is 10, yet even before they enter high school, it’s vital that they learn what not to do in the event they encounter law enforcement. This isn’t something specific for the Carter family; everyone in Garden Heights becomes familiar, distressingly early on, that their community is treated differently in the eyes of the law.

The Carters are a loving family, though Starr notes that they’re afraid of change, particularly when it comes to leaving the place in which they grew up. To provide the kids with a better chance at success, they’re enrolled in a private school called Williamson, which is further away but safer and wealthier. And it’s also full of white kids. Here, at the age of 16, Starr has to adopt a second identity, which she dubs “Starr Version 2.” There are still crushes and gossip and drama and thoughts of sex in this typical high school setting, but there’s also the type of quiet racism that pushes Starr to behave completely differently than when she’s in Garden Heights. To avoid being called “ghetto,” she refuses to call out general instances of ignorance, while also limiting her use of slang – which is ironically overused by most of her white classmates. Sadly, because of this pressured dichotomy, she doesn’t really fit in with the Williamson crowd or with those in Garden Heights.

Humor works its way into this initial setup, though saturninity is never far away. When a fight breaks out at a party in her neighborhood, Starr gets a ride home from her childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), whose own innocence and cheeriness have been marred by financial and familial setbacks that guide him into dealing drugs for the local King Lords gang. Nevertheless, on this particular night, he’s merely looking out for the safety of his friend. But that doesn’t stop a white Freemont police officer from making a hasty, fatal mistake while stopping Khalil for failing to use a turn signal.

The film’s strongest quality is the design of the characters; all of the leads feel entirely real. Stenberg is tremendous, tackling the trauma, grief, guilt, and anger of a moment of miscommunication and poor decisions that descends into gut-wrenching tragedy. “Nightmares are always the worst right after.” The way the Carter family supports one another is striking, representing a bright light amid significant adversity. Even in the face of an extreme, ongoing disconnect between cops and the community (a constant lack of justice or even recognition concerning the partiality only fuels the contempt and disrespect toward the police), the Carters demonstrate a commitment toward moral values and sticking together that are strong enough to overcome the gravest obstacles – and to break the cycle of violence and oppression. Their conversations and interactions always possess a level of compassion and heart that transcends the topics at hand.

“The Hate U Give” doesn’t just present one scenario of intolerance; it not only exhaustively scrutinizes the crime itself and the aftermath – from its impact on everyday life, to friends and family, to a grand jury proceeding, to destructive protests – it also dissects the hypocrisy of outsiders, thoughts of remaining silent for various self-interests, the perceived futility of minority causes, intimidation from within the community, and the haunting theme of division versus unity. An endlessly relevant, cautionary tale, the film never feels like a work of fiction. It’s scary, heartbreaking, and all too prescient as it comprehensively documents an existence that is eye-opening for some yet commonplace for others. The realism is absolutely crushing.

“We live in a complicated world, Starr.” In its efforts to cover the police shooting incident from beginning to end, while also studying a wealth of related scenarios of hate, prejudice, and brutality, it starts to lose some of its focus – notably with Starr’s boyfriend, who seems to be included only so that there’s at least one estimable white guy in the mix, as well as with a white classmate who vocalizes the abrasive perspective of automatically siding with the police – which intermittently makes the picture one of greater importance than of entertainment value. Still, overlong as it may be, “The Hate U Give” is a potent, powerful work, full of tough questions, tougher answers, and outstanding performances.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10