The first 30 minutes of The Hate U Give are almost flawless as setup for the final 90 minutes. It starts with Maverick Carter (Russel Hornsby) explaining to the family what to do when pulled over by the police. The story centres around Maverick’s daughter Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg). She lives with her family on the black side of town but along with her brother go to school on the white side of the town. In her introduction she explains both sides and how there are two sides of Starr because of it.
Khalil Harris (Algee Smith) is a huge reminder of both sides for Starr. Khalil was her first crush and first kiss, he’s driving her home from party when they get pulled over. In this scene Starr recalls all the advice her father had given her. She is in the passenger seat when Khalil reaches for his brush and is shot by the police officer thinking he’s reaching for a gun. This scene acts as the catalyst for the film.
Maverick is the anchor of the family and in some ways anchors the film as well. Hornsby gives a standout performances in a phenomenally cast film. He is the only one who appears unfazed at the circus that engulfs the town after Khalil is murdered and they become national news. Throughout the film he encourages Starr to speak out regardless of the consequences.
Watching this film was compelling and unsettling at the same time. Many of the sequences following Khalil’s death felt like Déjà vu. Mimicking the string of Black Americans killed by police officers. The town stands behind Khalil and are not quiet with their protests. Tillman does a good job of capturing Starr’s internal struggle, wanting to speak out and help Khalil or stay safe and away from the spotlight. Her struggle is externalized by her parents. Her father wants her to testify, while her mother would rather she stay hidden from the public.
The atmosphere in this town is tense after the murder and you feel it throughout the film. There is no promise of a happy ending, but as Starr’s character grows there’s a hope that she will overcome. As the film comes to a close Starr is faced with the realization that things may not go her way. The writing on the wall becomes clear, her confidence grows and she becomes a leader in her community.
This film does an absolutely flawless job showing Black Americans’ relationship with police and with the United State. If you are not woke before watching this film you will be afterwards.