By Jack Dignan
Early on in The Hate U Give, Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) details the first time she got “the talk.” While plenty of people hear that and think of sex ed and puberty, for Starr “the talk” meant how to deal with brutality and racism from those who claim to uphold the law, and it’s a speech her father (Russell Hornsby) delivers when she’s just nine years old. For many people around the world, “the talk” is a very real thing, and this is a film that’ll serve as an emotional reflection of the current state of their lives. For everyone else, it’s a harrowing wake up call that attempts to retell a familiar, but important message in new light. Racism bleeds through our society, and if those in power contribute to the sickness, how will we ever learn?
Of the many films I was fortunate enough to attend at this year’s TIFF, one of the few I wasn’t super fussed about was The Hate U Give. It certainly looked good, don’t get me wrong, but checking it out was a last minute decision driven by a gap in my schedule and the persistence of the people I was attending with. I went in hoping for the best, but I came out an emotional wreck. The Hate U Give is a powerful no-bullshit call to action aimed at a younger, impressionable generation. If you’re a teen, or you know a teen, make sure you all see this movie.
All it takes to change a generation is one person standing up to say “enough is enough,” and after witnessing the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, that’s exactly what Starr sets out to do. The Hate U Give is a tear jerking retaliation against the social injustice and sickening prejudice facing people of colour, but instead of taking this story to a more adult crowd like so many films before it, it follows in the footsteps of its best selling source material by Angie Thomas and aims at a younger crowd. Obviously, the more gratuitous elements of this story are subdued, but the film rarely pulls its punches, and if you’re not crying you’re simply lying.
Hunger Games star Amandla Stenberg is an absolute revaluation. Her character isn’t somebody who instantly holds prejudices against people, nor feels the need to conform to what society attempts to mold her into, but as the film progresses, and the violence and assaults against her family become more and more frequent, she starts to make a difference, and Stenberg goes all in. The screenplay by Audrey Wells does fall victim to the trap that often comes with younger lingo being forced into the dialogue, resulting in a ‘how do you do fellow kids’ vibe, but her story is shocking and necessary. Hornsby is particularly sensational, perhaps even one of my favourite supporting performances of the year.
George Tillman Jr. feels like an odd choice to direct, given that his previous filmography includes action thriller Faster and sappy romance The Longest Ride, but his work with The Hate U Give is, by far, his best yet. This will go down as his defining feature. There’s some odd over-colouring of certain shots, and some of the sub-plot involving K.J. Apa I didn’t particularly care for, but The Hate U Give is coming in hot and it’s here to stay. It doesn’t just explore police brutality, but also the lingering effects of violence on the human psyche, the effect public retaliation has on gang violence, and the influence this subsequently has on the next generation. I expected a good film and I got a great one. Don’t miss it.
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