By Kaylee Brewster
Three out of four
Some movies you have to watch, not because you want to, but because the message shared is one you need to hear.
“The Hate U Give” falls into this category, and fortunately, it’s worth watching for other reasons too.
“The Hate U Give” is about a girl named Starr (Amandla Stenberg) who is black and lives in a black neighborhood but goes to a private, predominately white school. She has two versions of herself: one at school and one in her neighborhood.
Her two worlds collide when her black friend Khalil (Algee Smith) is killed by a white police officer during a traffic stop because he reached for his hairbrush.
It’s a story often seen on the news. However, “The Hate U Give” shows the aftermath of such an event and its effect on the people touched by it.
This extends from Starr’s trauma of seeing her friend killed in front of her, to how the neighborhood reels in turmoil, to how quickly the event becomes a national incident.
More importantly, it shows how different people react to the situation with a range of emotions, from anger and sadness (Starr) to indifference (Starr’s classmates who just want an excuse to get out of math class and join a protest).
In some ways “The Hate U Give” is like a lesson on black civil rights, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, racial bias, cultural appropriation — the list goes on. It addresses just about all these issues through character’s discussions or actions.
By taking these issues on with the backdrop of a narrative, it’s an easier lesson to understand.
One reason for this is the stellar performance by Stenberg who gives Starr a voice but also shows her struggle to speak up and be herself. In the end it shows her courage in a welcome payoff.
Starr’s father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) is the other stand out. He has seen enough of the streets that he knows how to protect his family, but he also knows Starr needs to tell her story. He prepares his kids for life and he loves them, but he is also tough on them when he needs to be, because that’s often the difference between life and death. Hornsby shines in his role. You feel the father-daughter connection and it transcends to a character-audience connection.
Now you might be thinking, “Is it too preachy? Too political?”
It’s possible some might think it too loud in its political leanings. However, it’s so well integrated that this is a story with a message, not a message with a story. It’s also a story that needs to be told and a message that needs to be heard.