Movie #203 2020: The Hate U Give (2018)

If there was one movie that could completely summarise what is going on in the world currently, this would be it. Honestly, it’s almost a carbon copy of the events that lead up to the record breaking protests that are occurring, albeit this story has police brutality committed by gun violence rather than inexplicably kneeling on a young black man’s neck.

The Hate U Give centres on a young 16 year old girl named Starr (played exquisitly by Amandla Stenberg), and the difficulties she faces being the only black girl at her private school. One evening, Starr accompanies her friend to a party and bumps into her childhood best friend and first kiss, Khalil, who offers to drive her home after gun shots are heard at the gathering. Crucial to the plot, a police officer pulls them over and shoots Khalil – who is unarmed and has not committed any crime – while Starr can only look on in terror. Poignantly, the rest of the movie focuses on the events that occur after this event, specifically looking at protests, systemic racism, and what it takes for the guilty officer to receive some form of punishment.

The Hate U Give is not based on a true story. It’s based on hundreds of true stories. That’s what makes it so powerful, but it’s also what makes it so upsetting. Again, if you want to watch just one film that is relevant to the current protests, this is it. It is so close to what happened to George Floyd and all of the other black victims of police brutality that it’s almost as if this was made after what’s going on right now. It acts as evidence to what African American people have been saying for years now. Listen. Learn. Watch this movie and you’ll do both of these things. 

On the whole, the movie itself is wonderful, both from a technical point of view and for it enjoyability factor. This is by no means an easy watch; if you have any empathy whatsoever, you’ll find it impossible not to be challenged and upset by what is shown here. Thematically, there is no movie as relevant as this in our current climate, and what it does brilliantly is discuss the complexity of the lives of black people and the corrupt, inadequate systems that have been put in place to keep them at the bottom of the pile.

Each performance is meticulously put together, and the real surprise here for me came from Russell Hornsby who plays Starr’s father. He has the awful job of having to explain to his young children what to do if a police officer stops them, and makes it his aim to make sure that they learn the 10 rules set out by the Black Panthers by heart. Hornsby’s performance is quite frankly off the charts. Amandla Stenberg does an amazing job as the lead too, which is great to see in a young black actress. You may know her from her role at Rue in The Hunger Games, but I can assure you that this movie is much more important.

If you look at it from a genre standpoint, The Hate U Give is almost a coming-of-age movie, but it is one that actually matters. Sure Lady Bird was brilliant, but there’s more to this movie than just being mad at your overprotective mother. Overall this is a very important film in that it tackles real issues that are affecting so many, and despite it not really being a massively technical achievement – the cinematography etc is done well but it’s nothing we’ve not seen before – its story is much more necessary than any sort of teen angst movie that came before (or after) it.

Coming in at quite a hefty 133 minutes, this is by no means a short movie. However, the majority of its content is completely necessary giving the amount of ground it has to cover.

Besides, I’m sure you can spare 133 minutes of your life whilst hundreds of black people are sparing the entirety of theirs.

The Hate U Give is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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