Similar to 1989’s “Do the Right Thing” or 2009’s “Fruitvale Station,” “The Hate U Give” is the kind of movie that comes along once every few years. Relevant and haunting, the George Tillman Jr.-directed film powerfully speaks to our country’s cultural war from an unapologetically Black perspective. If you are a Black or brown person in America, it’s nearly impossible to not relate to at least one of the characters in the film. Moreover, this is a movie every American should watch, but it’s especially one every young person should see.
Amandla Stenberg has been a working actress in Hollywood for years, but “The Hate U Give” is the 19-year-old’s breakthrough, Oscar-worthy role. She delivers a stellar performance as Starr Carter, a teenage girl who navigates two worlds, her white private school and the Black neighborhood where she lives.
Based on the novel of the same name by Angie Thomas and adapted to screen by Tina Mabry and Audrey Well, the film flawlessly tackles the implicit and explicit struggles of white spaces, perfectly setting up the moment that will change Starr’s life. Khalil, played by up-and-coming actor Algee Smith, a lifelong friend, is shot and killed by a police officer. This gut-wrenching, graphic and triggering scene is a punch in the gut with Khalil symbolizing countless other Black men, women and children.
While this is a story many of us know well and have seen play it out in media—as we are witnessing right now with LaQuan McDonald in Chicago—it’s haunting to watch each moment play out on screen, from the media’s depictions of the victim’s neighborhood to blaming the victim who cannot defend himself to insincere white, liberal protests to interactions with cops and Black communities. As each frame passes, it’s nearly impossible to not get emotional as you think of Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Botham Jean, Antown Rose, Walter Scott, Michael Brown and so many others. “The Hate U Give” is cathartic, a release in this trauma-inducing 24 hours news cycle of Black people killed by police with no justice.
The film includes an all-star cast of Regina Hall as Starr’s mother, Common as Starr’s uncle who is also a police officer, Issa Rae as an activist and lawyer and Russell Hornsby as Starr’s father. There is also a flock of new actors, completing a powerful cast.
Directed by George Tillman Jr., known most for the “Barbershop” franchise, “The Hate U Give” is not just a movie, it captures a moment in our history, turning the mirror on ourselves and asking if this is the country we want to be. Reminding you that you or someone you love could be the next hashtag. The film is released with the crucial midterm election just next month. After watching, hopefully people will be inspired to vote (register here) to stop the hate that is currently being given to us every day by the Trump administration.
“The Hate U Give” opens in select cities today and nationwide on Oct. 19.