Film Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give (2018) might be one of the most controversial and polarizing movies of the year, and that’s solely down to its touchy subject matter. During this heated political climate that we live in, many might not give The Hate U Give a proper chance, but it’s good, really good. It has some flaws no doubt, but it does tackle its heavy themes in a logical and great way, especially through exceptional filmmaking and more importantly, through a fantastic cast and acting.

In recent years, police brutality against young black men has become a growing issue in the United States. From Michael Brown to Philando Castile and then Freddie Gray, the list of names grows longer every year. George Tillman Jr.’s film The Hate U Give, adapted from Angie Thomas’ book of the same name, tackles these issues head on in a way that leaves the viewer feeling personally invested in the outcome. Tillman employs every element of film to further drive home his message, whether it be through the soundtrack, the script, or the cinematography. Perhaps the most important thing accomplished by the filmmaker is the movie’s ability to tell the story of the victims of police violence. So often in today’s society the media is quick to create headlines containing the names of innocent police violence victims, but falls short of telling any of the stories behind the names. The Hate U Give forces the viewer to face the victims of these brutalities head on.

The film opens with a powerful affirmation of blackness scene containing three young children listening to their father, Maverick, give a rite of passage speech at the dinner table, the oldest child being 9, the youngest an infant. This speech is not typical dinner conversation. Instead, it is the guidelines of the Black Panthers, and the life-saving advice of putting your hands on the dashboard in the event of a police traffic stop. Despite the fact that none of these kids were old enough to drive, the father instilled in them at a young age the importance of cooperating with the police in order to save their own lives while still having pride in where they come from. This theme is repeated throughout the movie and can be seen in the graphic depiction of many events throughout the film.

Starr Carter, the daughter of Maverick and star of the film, continuously straddles opposing worlds – Garden Heights, a predominantly black and lower-income neighborhood in which she calls home, and Williamson Prep, a fancy predominantly white private school where she and her siblings, Seven and Sekani, attend school. Starr describes these different worlds as “two versions” of herself - Version One and Version Two. She does this in order to not be discriminated against at home for going to a white school, or at school for living in “the ghetto”.

Starr Version One goes to a party in Garden Heights, and when shots ring out, a young man named Khalil (who also happens to be a lifelong friend) brings her to safety and drives her home. But during a routine traffic stop - supposedly for a failure to signal a lane change but actually a case of a white cop catching Khalil “driving while black” - he reaches for his hairbrush, which the officer claims to believe is a gun, and shoots Khalil dead. Starr is not only traumatized but conflicted: Does she speak up but risk attracting attention to herself and her family from the cops? The killing of Khalil is major local news, widely reported on television. Because Starr is a minor as well as the only wittness, her identity is concealed, including from her friends at school. Starr eventually decides to testify for Khalil because of all of the media coverage, protesting, and obsession with the case. The crisis of loyalty means her whole version one and version two identity falls to pieces, along with friendship with people who “don’t see race”. She speaks out with her whole heart – screaming, protesting, fighting – just like her father taught her at a young age.

The very title of the film, borrowed from the late Tupac Shakur’s explanation of his album titled “Thug Life” - The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody - highlights the cycle of damage caused by racism. Starr’s tragic experience has forever shaped her life; the images of her friends being killed can never be forgotten. Yet, Starr manages to remain positive. She even manages to keep up the spirit of the fight for justice, to use her horrific experiences as encouragement to continue to speak up against unfairness.

          

Brody, R. (2018, October 19). "The Hate U Give," Reviewed: An Empathetic, Nuanced Portrait of a Teen's Political Awakening. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/the-hate-u-give-reviewed...

Harris, A. (2018, October 03). Review: In 'The Hate U Give,' a Police Shooting Forces a Teen to Find Her Voice. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/movies/the-hate-u-give-review-amandla-stenberg.html

Wilkinson, A. (2018, October 19). The Hate U Give is equal parts coming-of-age drama and Black Lives Matter primer. It's terrific. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/9/9/17834496/hate-u-give-review-amandla-stenberg

Bradshaw, P. (2018, October 18). The Hate U Give review – a defiant challenge to divided America. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/oct/18/the-hate-u-give-review-america-racial-politics-amandla-stenberg