The hate u give

Empire (UK) - - CINEMA - jimi fa­murewa

di­rec­tor Ge­orge Till­man Jr cast Amandla Sten­berg, Al­gee Smith, Issa Rae, Rus­sell Hornsby, An­thony Mackie

Plot Teenage Starr (Sten­berg) lives a dual life ap­peas­ing both her lo­cal black friends and the priv­i­leged white kids at her pri­vate school. But when one friend be­comes a vic­tim of po­lice bru­tal­ity, she has a po­lit­i­cal awak­en­ing, angers a lo­cal king­pin and be­gins to ques­tion who she re­ally is. His­tor­i­cally, young adult block­buster suc­cesses have been famed for the un­ex­pected dark­ness of their sub­ject mat­ter, whether it’s the dystopian ritual slaugh­ter of The Hunger Games or the, um, dystopian ritual slaugh­ter of The Maze Run­ner. But, gen­er­ally, these sto­ries play out in spec­u­la­tive sci-fi fu­tures or worlds touched by fan­tasy and magic. there’s no such pro­tec­tive dis­tance in The Hate U Give. and it only serves to am­plify the ef­fect of a gen­uinely dark, stun­ningly bold and ut­terly vi­tal look at race re­la­tions in mod­ern amer­ica.

Based on us first-time author angie thomas’s 2017 best­seller (which, in a nod to the ur­gency of its themes, has gone from page to screen in just over 18 months), the core story is an im­pres­sively deft meld­ing of the per­sonal and the po­lit­i­cal. starr carter (sten­berg from, fun­nily enough, The Hunger Games) is a black teenager who, as her nar­ra­tion tells us, has grown adept at os­cil­lat­ing be­tween two selves; the street-smart char­ac­ter she shows her black friends in her gar­den Heights neigh­bour­hood and the peppy, meek girl she plays for the ben­e­fit of white pri­vate school pals who won’t ac­cept her if she acts “too ghetto”.

there’s a think­piece-ready blunt­ness to these es­tab­lish­ing scenes, as they in­tro­duce us to starr’s fam­ily, her white boyfriend (KJ apa) and the sub­tle prej­u­dice in her white friends’ re­peated at­tempts to be “street”. But an able cast (in­clud­ing The Deuce’s do­minique Fish­back as starr’s way­ward gar­den Heights friend) help keep things bounc­ing along. and the light­ness of these early mo­ments in­creases the im­pact when — as he drives her home from a party — starr’s child­hood friend Khalil (smith) is shot by a po­lice­man dur­ing a traf­fic stop.

it’s here that The Hate U Give truly im­presses with its un­flinch­ing power and ad­mirable com­plex­ity. di­rec­tor ge­orge till­man Jr (No­to­ri­ous) ren­ders both the shoot­ing and starr’s en­su­ing grief with an un­var­nished raw­ness. What’s more, as starr’s sta­tus as a sole wit­ness leaves her alien­ated from her school friends (and brings the at­ten­tion of both issa rae’s Black lives Mat­ter ac­tivist and an­thony Mackie’s men­ac­ing lo­cal druglord), the film for­goes easy an­swers about as­sim­i­la­tion and the dif­fer­ent forms racism can take. at each turn, sten­berg is ut­terly mag­netic, able to nim­bly hop from sit­com light­ness to wrench­ing emo­tion. rus­sell Hornsby, as starr’s re­formed gang­banger dad, is sim­i­larly com­mand­ing.

yes, it has an oc­ca­sional ten­dency to over-egg some of its mes­sages (see the lit­tle boys hav­ing a the­mat­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent gun fight dur­ing Khalil’s me­mo­rial cer­e­mony) and there’s some daft­ness dur­ing the riot-set fi­nale. But this is a scin­til­lat­ing, an­gry roar of a film that rewires the pos­si­bil­i­ties of what a teen movie can say and do.

Verdict a so­phis­ti­cated adap­ta­tion of a hugely im­por­tant book that adeptly han­dles its daunt­ing themes, and pro­vides a plat­form for a star-mak­ing per­for­mance from amandla Sten­berg.

Hands up who’s a star in the mak­ing.

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