Adapted from the eponymous Angie Thomas novel, the film follows protagonist Starr, who, following the shooting and subsequent death of her childhood friend by a police officer, must decide whether to speak out and potentially rip her community apart or stay silent and betray the memory of her friend. Powerful, moving and well-shot, the film tackles the ideas of racial profiling, police brutality, and the reverberating social effects that they can have.
The Hate U Give wastes no time warming its audience up – it jumps straight in with racial tensions, showing African American protagonist Starr receiving ‘the talk’ from her father on what to should the police ever pull her over. The fragile balance of her carefully-maintained persona at a white, privileged school is threatened when her friend is wrongfully shot by a white police officer and she is the only witness. To make matters worse, she is threatened on both sides, by a local gang to keep quiet and indirectly by the local police department.
The film faces the same issue that many movie adaptations of novels face: awkward exposition. Read off a page, information such as where characters live, the status of their parents’ marriage, their everyday life can feel perfectly natural, but can become a little clumsy in its big-screen translation. Much of the acting at first, particularly from Amanda Stenburg, felt stilted and unbelievable. However, she more than made up for this with her stellar performance when it came to the raw power and emotion further on.
One particularly disappointing character in the film was that of Starr’s boyfriend Chris, who not only did not reach quite the same character arch of his novel counterpart but was also played by KJ Apa. Though a noteworthy actor, Apa brings little to the character and it feels as if he has been cast solely for his pretty face and bankable name. Anthony Mackie, however, put in a solid performance as the film’s ‘villain’, a ruthless gang leader named King, as did Algee Smith in the role of Khalil, proving you don’t need a lot of lines to make your character memorable.
Ultimately, the ending of the film did not stick too closely to its source material, gripping both the audience members who knew how the film would end and those who didn’t. The Hate U Give is one of those films that truly make you feel something and raises very important questions about today’s society; it’s an important movie that everyone should watch.
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