The Hate U Give
dir George Tillman Jr
scr Audrey Wells, Angie Thomas
prd Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Robert Teitel, George Tillman Jr
with Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, Common, Algee Smith, KJ Apa, TJ Wright, Dominique Fishback, Sabrina Carpenter, Lamar Johnson
release US 5.Oct.18, UK 22.Oct.18
18/US Fox 2h23
The Hate U Give
Family crisis: Hornsby, Hall and Stenberg

mackie rae common
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Hate U Give Despite an oddly simplified script and glossy mainstream direction, this film tackles a huge issue in a way that will engage a wide audience. It's a take on Black Lives Matter that helps illuminate the issue with a warmly involving story packed with solid characters. So even if the ideas are obvious, the film may help audiences understand the topic with more clarity.

In a rough neighbourhood, 16-year-old Starr (Stenberg) has a warm family life with parents (Hall and Hornsby) and brothers Seven and Sekani (Johnson and Wright). They attend a private school in a posh neighbourhood, where Starr feels like a different person, especially around best friend Hailey (Carpenter) and boyfriend Chris (Apa). Then one night after a party near her home, she's the only witness when a cop (Starkey) shoots her unarmed childhood friend Khalil (Smith). As protests rise up, Starr must decide if she will testify, angering the local crime boss (Mackie).

There are several intriguing wrinkles to the set-up, as Starr must confront a collision between her two worlds, which are divided by race. This leads into several intriguing clashes between her and friends and family members, such as her uncle (Common), who's a cop. There's also a legal justice activist (Rae) who wants to seize the moment. So it's rather annoying that Starr's explanatory voiceover never leaves anything to think about. Each confrontation has an answer, characters are either good or bad. This allows screenwriter Wells to include a villain who adds corny action beats along the way.

Within this relatively simplistic approach to a vastly complicated issue, the actors add some nice textures to their characters. Stenberg sharply portrays how Starr discovers her voice, almost making it feel unpredictable. Although she's a little too perky, brainy and perfect for the movie to ever feel fully realistic. Similarly, the superb Apa and Smith are rather too charming as boys who like her, and Hall and Hornsby are basically sitcom parents with a gritty topical edge.

Since this is aimed at a teen audience, it's not surprising that the movie lacks nuance, preferring to tell us what to think than to provoke discussion. But the wide range of ideas that are batted around, from unconscious prejudice to Black Panther philosophy, keeps it afloat. And the sparky cast continually add interest to a group of disparate characters caught up in events that feel eerily timely.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 19.Oct.18 lff

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall