Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Algee Smith
Screening at LFF: 20th & 21st
UK release: 22nd October
If Spike Lees’ BlacKkKlansman was the powerful, resonating and necessary film for adults in 2018, then The Hate U Give is the same in terms of potency but packaged in a way that is accessible to young adults and teens. Beyond that, however, this film has messages and relevancy across the board, and alongside the aforementioned Spike Lee joint, you’d be hard-pushed to find two films more relevant to our times.
Amandla Stenberg (who fans will recognise as Rue from The Hunger Games) absolutely astounds, and a lot is placed on her young shoulders in this film. We spend almost the entirety of the film’s runtime with her, and the nuances in the way she shows the development of her character are mesmerising. She portrays the duality of a girl torn between her “white” school and friends, and her “black” neighbourhood, family, and peers expertly. From the offset, there is the sense of a character caught between worlds, not really feeling sure of what one she belongs in, and this theme of identity is beautifully played throughout. Anchored by Stenberg’s performances, this idea of belonging and identity is something which resonates beyond race, and ensures this film is accessible to a wider audience, particularly it’s teen target audience.
The film takes a little while to settle into its groove, and indeed initially plays out like any other teen movie. Whilst the “slang” and very obvious steer towards a teen audience grated initially, in hindsight it was completely necessary, the earth-shattering events Stenberg’s Starr witnesses are a jarring gut punch into her teen normalcy, and the tone of the film from here on out, is very different.
The Hate U Give is a film which feels consistently, and perhaps horrifyingly relevant, it’s quiet broiling tension and anger eventually exploding in a way that is simultaneously cathartic and a call to action. This is a film which demands a response, and one which perhaps more than anything, encourages young people to use their voice. Throughout, it emphasises that it is having the courage to speak out that is seen to be greater than any act of violence, and the voice is the most powerful weapon you could have.
The final act is absolutely stunning with Stenberg’s performance being at its absolute peak, with emotion and talent beyond her years. It’s an act which is simple, defiant, earned, and incredibly powerful, and it is here that the film truly shines.
The initially uneven tone of the film perhaps lets this down slightly, but this is a film with something to say and it is important that audiences give it the time to listen to it.