The Hate U Give12¦ Blu-ray, DVD
There’s one thing that can bring people together in this world and that’s the understanding of how divisive politics can be.
From the outside – of the US that is – you would think that after several shootings in schools, something would be done about gun laws. In 2012, a 20-year-old walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, Connecticut, and shot dead 20 children under the age of seven. It should have been the final straw. It wasn’t.
And then you have the treatment of African Americans. In the same year, African American teen Trayvon Martin was shot dead in Florida, by a member of the community watch, for walking to a family member’s home on his own. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of all charges.
This injustice gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, which highlights the plights of African Americans, who so often pay the ultimate price for the colour of their skin.
This film then, although based on the fictional novel of the same name, written by Angie Thomas, captures the very mood of what it means to be a young African American today.
Although 16-year-old Starr (Amandla Stenberg) lives in the hood, in this case the black community of Garden Heights, her parents weren’t happy for her to attend the local high school full of drugs, guns and pregnant teens, so decided to send her to a white private school.
Being one of the only students of colour, Starr finds that she has to portray a different view of herself – or version 2 as she puts it – to rock the boat as little as possible.
She finds that it works the other way too; during a party held in her own community, she feels slightly removed from those around her. Thankfully a close, childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith) turns up who she hasn’t seen for a while. When trouble kicks off, Khalil offers to take her home.
It’s on this journey that the pair are pulled over by a lone policeman for a minor traffic offense. When Khalil doesn’t fully comply with the officer’s requests, the situation quickly escalates out of hand when the officer believes himself to be under threat, pulls his gun and shoots Khalil dead.
Not only does Starr have to deal with the grief that she has, but also the added pressure from the community, to stand up as the only witness of the incident, and give her account of what really happened. But in doing so, she will attract unwanted attention from both worlds she’s a part of, and has to decide if she can do the right thing – whatever that might be.
Director George Tillman Jr.’s film is all about conflict. The central focus is that of the internal conflict that the main protagonist is going through, with the social conflict between African Americans and the police used as a backdrop.
It’s Starr’s struggle that drives the film, but the film itself has a struggle all of its own when it comes to the dramatic gear changes. During its overly long duration of two hours and 13 minutes, the film offers a glimpse of family life for Starr, in a sort of nod to The Cosby Show, then quickly goes dark in an attempt to get all Boyz n the Hood. It would probably work great as one or the other, but this cross-over of worlds is one that simply doesn’t work. It’s made worse by the sudden appearance of a threatening soundtrack that shamefully highlights the dramatic scene changes, on an all too regular basis. And it’s these kinds of obvious signposts that audiences can do without.
But what it lacks in subtlety it manages to make up for in some genuinely impressive performances. Stenberg is a revelation throughout, and like her character’s name suggests, clearly has the talent and ability to outshine many of her young contemporaries. A name to file under 'future star' for sure.
Russell Hornsby, who plays her father, also gives a strong account of himself, as the ex gang member turned responsible shop owner.
Despite the film’s balance of being accessible and edgy completely failing, it’s heart is in the right place, with a giving cast that deserves a whole lot of love.