The Review: The Hate U Give (2018)
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Every day, black parents of teenagers have to factor in the possibility that their kid could die at the hands of the police. Black people are more likely to die at the hands of the police (according to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health). As citizens, we get that, but there's only so much we can grasp from a news or police report about the stories of these unfortunate children and their communities. Moreover, so few of us understand intimately, the damaging, cyclical nature of poverty and crime that effects these communities as well as the characters in The Hate U Give.
I'm writing this review just as the film is on its last legs at the cinema. Bit late! And so this is a review for people who missed the film (I nearly did, only watched it last week and travelled to another city to do so) or couldn't justify the cost of the movie ticket. This review isn't really about the details of the film; it's more about what resonated with me because this isn't a film you just watch, it's also a film that you feel.
Before you watch it, it's important to recognise that this is a film written by a black person (Angie Thomas) depicting what's happening to black people in the real world. The American news is filled with stories, every year, of the deaths of unarmed young black men at the hands of the police. And there's not really a lot of great representation of black people in the media because historically a lot of it's not been written by black people or it's written in a way that's shallow. This films fills in the gaps and goes deeper into the mentality of the black characters, giving it an authenticity, a black voice that would otherwise be missing had a non-black person written.
"The talk is a moment or series of moments where the parents of African American teenage children explain to them how to interact with the police."
Okay, let's do this.
I highly rate this movie: it's singular in that it slays on almost every level, where every element from plot to pacing to production works together to make the film worth every tear. Yes, tear.
Let me tell you; I have never cried so much watching a film I have never cried watching a movie. I've shed a tear or two but from the get-go, the film threw me in the deep end of tears, and I realised I better learn to swim quick!
The film kicks off with 'the talk.' If you don't know what the talk is let me culture you. The talk is a moment or series of moments where the parents of African American teenage children explain to them how to interact with the police. In this film, the father Maverick 'Big Mav' Carter played by Russel Hornsby gave the talk. Russ first impressed upon me in Seven Seconds, which I watched after hearing Regina King won an Emmy for her role as Jersey City mother whose son is killed by the police and Russ plays the father. Russ kills it and taps into a father's anger.
"This films fills in the gaps and goes deeper into the mentality of the black characters, giving it an authenticity, a black voice that would otherwise be missing had a non-black person written it."
Russ isn't the only one who carries the film, so does Starr Carter played by Amanda Steinburg, those two and her two brothers Sekani and Seven played by TJ Wright and Lamar Johnson respectively all support each other to help bring the character to life. The mid-movie scene in particular when Maverick orders his children to get out of the car, the line-up on the front lawn, and then recite the seventh point from the Black Panther Partys' Ten Point Program.
Despite racially loaded moments like this that always have you on a knife's edge, The Hate U Gives' heartfelt script softens many scenes in between. Aggressive policing and the threat of police violence may be ever looming in Garden Heights, which is the fictional drug afflicted African American neighbourhood where Starr lives.
However, the central cross-race relationships Starr has with her white boyfriend Chris (KJ Apa), and her Asian-American best friend Maya (Meghan Lawless) add complexity to police brutality as an issue which in the absence of this film is often seen as a dichotomous issue. Moreover, prevalent thinking tends to treat racially-based policing as dichotomous outcomes—the absence or presence of racially biased policing.
More on that and not something you'd typically find in a movie review is a quote by an economist. Although equally a cultural icon Thomas Sowell has written extensively on the condition and social effects of culture, race and discrimination. He cuts through the black and white thinking on police brutality when he says, "People who have never fired a gun in their lives likewise do not hesitate to express shock and anger that so many bullets were fired [by law enforcement] in an encounter with a criminal [or thug]."
Sowell's experience as a former pistol coach in the Marine Core supports his statement, which I think is valid. What do you think? Is it perhaps unreasonable to judge whether or not the police have used excessive force when someone resist arrest despite the fact that you have never encountered the kinds of dangers inherent in law enforcement?
In the end, the characters of The Hate U Give suddenly realise with such clarity the stark reality of how what society gives us as youths then bites them in the ass we wild out, and ultimately the prescience of Tupac's quote which inspired the title of the film: "The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody."