The Hate U Give

Based on the best-selling 2017 young adult novel written by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give is an emotionally profound film about the timely issue of the shooting of black men by police and is brought to life by the terrific acting performances and a well-written script that delves deep into the unexplored complexities of the central problem surrounding police brutality. The plot follows a female black teenager named Starr Carter, played by Amandla Stenberg who is best known for her role in 2012’s The Hunger Games, who lives a double life by living in a predominantly African-American neighborhood while attending a wealthy private high school in a predominantly white neighborhood where she met her white boyfriend Chris. In order to fit in in both settings, she has to “code switch” between the slang and outfits more commonly associated with each respective community. Her parents want a different life for her and her other siblings away from the violence of their neighborhood: her father Maverick, played by the excellent Russell Hornsby, was once a member of a powerful gang and thereby makes sure his children do not end up like him in his past, and her mother Lisa, played by Regina Hall, is a nurse who simply wants the best for her kids. On one fateful night, Starr’s worlds collide after she witnesses her unarmed black childhood friend Khalil getting fatally shot by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop. Not really feeling fully a part of the white or black community, she hesitates to come forward as the witness and speak on the behalf of her murdered friend in fear that she will alienate members of either community. The movie is so effective because it explores the horrific effects experienced by a witness to police brutality and how difficult it is to come forward with their story. By having the protagonist stuck in two worlds, the filmmaker is able to show the reactions of those who typically support the police side of the story and those who typically support the other side of the story; it shows the difficulty in navigating both sides when you are friends with all of them. In one particularly poignant scene, her uncle Carlos, played by actor musician Common, who also happens to be a black police officer tries to explain the feelings and circumstances that many police officers face when confronting a possibly dangerous individual, and he even goes so far to say that unfortunately black men like himself are targeted sometimes unjustly. Eventually, with the help of a black activist played by HBO star Issa Rae, Starr decides to become more active and tell the public her side of the story in hopes of bringing her friend’s killer to justice. Overall, I found it to be a brilliant movie that transcends the young adult genre to become a much more realistic and socially important cinematic experience exploring such a complicated current issue as police brutality.

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