VOD film review: The Hate U Give
Georgina Smith | On 19, Feb 2019
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby
Watch The Hate U Give online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“The Hate U Give Little Infants F’s Everyone” explains Khalil (Algee Smith) to Starr (Amandla Stenberg), just a few minutes before he is fatally shot by a police officer in what should have been a routine licence check. It’s a scenario that has played out in the news with an increasing frequency over recent years. The Hate U Give offers a fictional account of what happens after the shooting. And it’s not just the subsequent protests and investigations that are shown, but the quiet moments of grief, not just the effect on the victim’s family and friends, but the way this kind of trauma impacts a whole community.
Khalil and Starr were childhood best friends that drifted apart after Starr transferred to a predominantly white school as her parents (Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby) strive to keep her safe. Because of this, she feels she’s living a double life, the Starr she is at home and the Starr she is at school. But following Khalil’s death, these two versions of Starr are forced together, as she must decide exactly what version of herself she wants to be – and whether she wants to speak out about what really happened to Khalil that night. It’s a heavy plot that is full of emotion and trauma, but director George Tillman Jr. manages to weave lighter moments through it, always managing to lift the film back up when it feels like it’s drowning under the intensity of the emotions.
Stenberg is fantastic as Starr and manages to set herself apart as a performer to watch out for in the future. We see her grapple with her emotions, her grief, her anger, her hurt, and are able to feel everything alongside her, her expressive face conveying it to the audience. Whether she’s chanting through a megaphone on top of a cop car or telling her father about her PTSD-induced nightmares, Stenberg manages to completely captivate the audience every time she’s on screen. Even in the lighter moments where she’s at a party or playing basketball, there’s an authenticity to her performance that helps to raise the bar for the film as a whole.
Although The Hate U Give manages to avoid feeling preachy, it doesn’t manage to escape the trap of a picture perfect, happy, Hollywood ending. The film’s climax is different from that of its source material – Angie Thomas’ 2017 novel of the same name – and it’s slightly too neat, requiring too much of a suspension of a disbelief, which is especially jarring, considering the preceding grittiness. But it’s an important story that needs to be told, and its one that will stay with the viewer for a long time afterwards. Its a shame that The Hate U Give will most likely be categorised as just a young adult novel adaptation, and possibly be overlooked because of it, because it offers a platform to voices that need to be heard, because although in this instance they may be fictional, the issues they are discussing are all too real.
The Hate U Give is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription.