Director George Tillman Jr. delivers a gripping film that tackles complex issues and pulls at the heartstrings.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
In The Hate U Give, Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is caught between two worlds: the first being her family life where she lives in an impoverished African American community, and the second being her privileged private school life. When she witnesses her childhood friend being shot by a policeman following a minor traffic infringement, Starr must decide whether she continues to live her double life, or to speak out about what happened, forcing her two worlds collide.
The Hate U Give is a strong film aimed at young adults and is armed with a slew of strong African American actors. Taking the lead as Starr is teen favourite Amandla Stenberg who puts on the performance of her life. There’s a bubbling anger beneath Starr’s façade and Stenberg does an amazing job of slowly letting it ooze out bit by bit as the pressure from her community to speak out against the police becomes suffocating.
Stenberg is supported by the likes of Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Common and Anthony Mackie, who each bring something slightly different to the table. Hall plays Starr’s mum, adding some comic relief to an otherwise heavy film. Hornsby is Starr’s inspiring father who has redeemed his past discretions to ensure the safety of his family. It’s his constant fight for equality and the drilling of these virtues into his children that motivates Starr to pursue justice for her friend. Common plays Starr’s uncle who is a policeman himself, not only offering an insight into what could have been going through the policeman’s mind before he shot Starr’s friend, but also further highlighting the blatant racism that exists in society.
But it’s Mackie’s performance as the King that is the most impressive. Far from his goofy sidekick role as the Falcon in the Marvel series, Mackie plays a dangerous and eerily quiet drug lord who poses an ominous threat to Starr. Her desires to reveal the actions of the policeman and discuss the harsh realities that exist within her community could potentially lead to the incrimination of the King, causing every scene he’s in to be filled with a nervous tension.
Director George Tillman Jr. (Men Of Honour, Notorious) not only tells a tragic story, but pulls apart each component and investigates it fully. Be warned: there are many heartbreaking scenes in this film that will leaving you feeling like you’ve been sucker punched in the stomach. It’s captivating and horrifying all at the same time, like a car crash you can’t look away from. In saying this, Tillman Jr. is very aware that he’s ultimately directing a youth film, and ensures that the scenes aren’t overly graphic, but more suggestive of violence that has taken place.
The Hate U Give is a brilliant film that deftly handles white privilege, police brutality and institutional racism. Tillman Jr. manages to deliver a film that not only speaks to its desired audience with maturity and respect, but also ensures the issues at hand are understood loud and clear. Other young adult filmmakers need to take a note out of Tillman Jr.’s book.
The Hate U Give is available in Australian cinemas from January 31
Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox