The Hate U Give is a powerful film. I don’t think anyone can leave the theatre after seeing it without saying that. I’d known about the book that the movie is based off of since it came out in 2017. I’d known about the issues of police brutality with black youths since middle school. But the problem has been going on long before that.
What I didn’t know is if the movie would do this topic justice. I didn’t even know if I could be the one to determine that, as a white girl. I’m not the one who can make that decision in terms of experience, but from my point of view I left the theatre believing that this movie was something that needed to be made, for everyone to see.
The Hate U Give focuses on a young black girl named Starr, played by Amandla Stenberg. At the beginning of the movie, she keeps her family life in a black community separate from the mostly-white high school she attends. Starr doesn’t try to stand out, but instead blends in as best she can to avoid being labeled by the people around her. After witnessing the terrible event of her friend, Khalil, being shot by a white policeman, she has to decide, as the only witness, to speak out or stay quiet.
With immense bravery, Starr speaks up about the injustice of Khalil’s murder, and becomes an advocate for black people and “everyone at the bottom”, those who have been mistreated and deserve as much as anyone to be treated equally. I think the movie shows really well the struggle Starr goes through and her ultimate decision to stand up for her friend and the black community. The film brings tension and fear for what will happen to Starr and her family, if this problem will continue or start getting better. I found my eyes locking onto the screen, gritting my teeth whenever violence seemed to be on the rise. It is clear that this is a bigger problem than what relates to Starr personally, but focuses on her specific experience to tell the story from her point of view.
Twenty-year-old Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games, Everything, Everything) does a great job portraying Starr’s courage and her awareness of the surrounding world. Starr dominates the screen in almost every scene, while other white characters like Chris (KJ Apa) and Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter) take more of a back seat, and are there to build Starr’s character, not to be the forefront of the story. I appreciate that black characters took a greater role in this movie when many films seem to cast people of color just to have them there, not to lead the plot.
Having recently started the book by Angie Thomas that inspired this movie, I find that the film seems to have stayed true to Thomas’s work. Director George Tillman (Soul Food, Men of Honor) didn’t attempt to make something new out of the already powerful story, but instead made the best movie-version possible. Tillman effectively shows the contrast between the two worlds Starr lives in, with her white prep school shown in cooler blues, and her black neighborhood highlighted with warm colors and vibrant reds. He portrays the conflict between the two worlds, even if society claims we have come past a time of racism, which is seen through Sabrina Carpenter’s character and her views. The Hate U Give demands attention to the fact that racism is still very prominent, and that our society is continually race-influenced in the sense that not everyone is considered equal by others.
The message I took from this film is that police brutality and racism is happening, and that it won’t go away until we all realize that this needs to change. I also find that the film not only speaks for the story of Starr and Khalil, but speaks for all the people who have had to face a similar situation; The Hate U Give is not based off of fiction–it tells the world that crimes like these are real, and that we need to wake up and do something about it.