mon 21/10/2019

The Hate U Give review - American teen drama takes on Black Lives Matter | reviews, news & interviews

The Hate U Give review - American teen drama takes on Black Lives Matter

The Hate U Give review - American teen drama takes on Black Lives Matter

Worthy attempt to bring Angie Thomas' complex best-seller to the big screen

High school confidantes: Megan Lawless, Amandla Stenberg and Sabrina Carpenter

Starr Carter is 16 years old and her life straddles two very different worlds, the posh prep school she goes to with its privileged white students and the troubled black neighbourhood she lives in with her family. And like its heroine, The Hate U Give straddles two very different genres, playing as both a teen drama about friendship, bullying and boyfriends and an African-American call-to-arms about police brutality. It’s not always the most seamless of hybrids and occasionally the joins show in the casting choices and the didactic expository dialogue, but the film is held together by a strong performance by Amandla Stenberg and its heart is definitely in the right place.

The Hate U Give opens with Starr’s father giving her and her older and younger brothers "the talk" -  not the one about sex or not swearing in front of your grandparents, but the one about how to behave when the police stop you. Not if, but when. Their father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) knows the drill, a Black Panther supporter, he’s been in prison for his involvement with the local King Lords gang. Now reformed, he owns a grocery store and with his wife, a nurse in a local hospital, is determined that his kids have a chance at a different life. They are sent to school outside their neighbourhood and Starr slips on a different persona, chafing a little at her privileged white friends dilettante dabbling in rap and street talk that she cannot indulge without looking too ‘ghetto’. It's no wonder her favourite tv show is The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.But it’s when her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith pictured above) is shot by a trigger-happy policeman as he’s giving her a lift home from a party, that Starr’s battles with identity begin. Khalil and Starr used to play at being Harry Potter characters when they were little kids, but he’s been dealing drugs for King (Anthony Mackie), the local gang lord, in order to get by. Although unarmed and clean at the time of the shooting, the police are determined to put the blame on Khalil.

Adapted from Angie Thomas’ best selling young adult novel, director George Tillman Jr has his work cut out to get a complex, carefully balanced narrative onto the screen, even with a generous two hours plus running time. It’s always tricky knowing what to cut out  or simplify in an adaptation of a beloved book; the fans are going to want it to be as faithful as possible, criticise every short cut and omission, but it can’t all be crammed in. As it is, there’s quite a lot of assuming that the audience can work out the web of relationships. One of Starr’s brothers, Seven is by another mother who is now in a relationship with King, while her uncle, Carlos is a detective in the same police force as the cop who killed Khalil. Starr has to testify in front of a grand jury and is torn between loyalty to Khalil, fear of King’s reprisals and exposure at school. 

Tillman Jr uses archival black and white photos from the civil rights era onwards to punctuate his up-to-the minute take on America and the Black Lives Matter movement. If some of the friendship dilemmas and romantic stuff (Starr’s supportive boyfriend Chris is played by a rather too old and bland KJ Apa) seems like a diversion to placate a white audience, it’s probably worth it if it gets as diverse an audience into the cinemas as possible. Well worth seeing – and it makes an excellent half term break from the usual super hero churn. 


Starr slips on a different persona, chafing a little at her privileged white friends dilettante dabbling in rap and street talk


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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