George Tillman Jr (director)
22 October 2018 (released)
25 October 2018
Starr Carter (Amanda Stenberg) is a bright teen who along with her half-brother Seven (Lamar Johnson) and brother Sekani (TJ Wright) have been pulled out of their mostly black local neighbourhood school in Garden Heights by their mother to attend a predominately white prep-school where the perception is that they will receive a better education. These differences are presented with breeze block subtly as the neighbourhood is filmed with earthier truer colours while the prep school is pristine and glacial.
Prejudice is present in the stares and gossip but its manageable as they have made friends there and Starr is dating Chris (K J Apa) who is white. There’s some flipping between the two cultures and attitudes and they aren’t disconnected from Garden Heights. That’s ensured by their father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) a former gang member who lives and works in the community and is respected by gang and non-gang members alike. Their mother Lisa (Regina Hall) just wants to get the family away from Garden Heights.
At a local party Starr reacquaints with Khalil (Algee Smith) who is looking good and earning well albeit by nefarious means. A lift home sees them stopped by the police resulting in the death of Khalil. As she is the only witness Starr is plunged into a situation that involves her parents, her conscience, the law and local gang interests. Khalil was involved with the gangs they aren’t at all keen on her testifying for or against him.
Intertwined with this is Starr’s relationship with her white school friends who initially are supportive, only to turn out not to be quite so understanding. There’s also Carlos (Common) a policeman who has a foot in both the local community and the police procedure adding another perspective and yet more exposition. Which leads to a guide of the US legal system as we are taken through the workings of the police internal investigations and the Grand Jury.
Directed by George Tillman Jr and adapted by Audrey Wells from the book by Angie Thomas, the film becomes something melting pot for ideas and issues that are important but in having to cover so many bases, the film feels slotted together and the flow is a trifle clunky at times.
The performances are uniformly very good. And frankly they have to be as the script varies considerably over the two hours plus running time from some sharp banter to some so inane as to be embarrassed for the actors saying the words.
There’s a legitimate comparison with Boyz n the Hood as they tackle several similar issues in particular the father figures who impress discipline and wisdom on their children. But whereas that film was tightly directed and focused, The Hate U Give looks like a loose sprawl.