REVIEW: The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give is a stunning film. I felt like I was at the edge of my seat throughout almost the entire movie, my heart ready to lurch forward and join the characters in their fight against injustice, tears welling in my eyes despite myself. In the aftermath of her friend Khalil’s being shot by a police officer, protagonist Starr Carter finds herself in a crucial position to help his case as a direct eye witness; the movie is her navigating her choices to speak up, to fight, and to help her friend and community after his death. The movie seamlessly juggles multiple plot points and themes simultaneously– from large-scale institutional racism, to microaggressions from her close white friends who sympathize with the police officer who shot Khalil; from Starr going to a private school and having a white boyfriend, to loving the black neighborhood in which she grew up; from Starr’s obsession with Jordans, to calling her parents her OTP. The movie shows us so many parts of the black experience in America– political, social, personal, cultural– it seems to maturely accomplish the exposition of so many issues while staying true to underlying the institutional injustice against black people in America. The Hate U Give is a beautiful, mature, and important movie, and I urge everyone to go see it.

The scene that still won’t leave my mind is the one in which Starr’s friend, Khalil, is killed. Starr and him are childhood friends and spent most of their days as kids together, playing Harry Potter, goofing around in the streets of their neighborhood, but they drifted apart as they got older. In the beginning of the movie, Starr and Khalil meet again at a party. They recount their childhood together. Khalil tells her what Tupac meant by THUG LIFE: “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody”– meaning that the unjust systems propagated through our institutions, politics, and social norms eventually repeats itself when it is manifested as hatred and anger in the youth. In the car, Khalil and Starr share a kiss, and for one blissful moment, everything feels good.

Then the police officer pulls Khalil over for what seems like no reason. The film does an incredible job of capturing the small, minute details that culminate to his shooting: the way Khalil refuses to turn down his music, the way the officer ungracefully attempts to regain control of the conversation, Starr silently pleading Khalil to do as the officer says, the officer’s nervousness around both Starr and Khalil, Khalil’s reaching into the car after being patted down to grab his hairbrush… The scene is so carefully constructed and all the moments lead up to another. I’m still running it over in my head, trying to find something that could have prevented it from happening. But that’s the thing– this is a tragedy that has not only happened once, it is not an isolated event– it is the tangible and repeated reality of African Americans in America today. This movie makes you realize that what conspired with Starr and Khalil is the culmination of years of institutional racism, and begs for action from its audience members.

The beautiful thing about this movie is that it engages with these sprawling problems of racism and police brutality while not losing sight of the humanity and individuality of its characters. It freely explores the nuances of Starr’s code-switching between her using slang in the “hood” that she lives in, but speaking “proper” when she’s at her private school. It shows a hilarious scene of Starr introducing her white boyfriend to her dad (he said, “Chris? What kind of plain-ass name is that?” I nearly spit out my drink). It shows a joyful party of young black people having a good time together. It shows how much Starr’s parents love each other. This movie is so full of joy and sorrow and, ultimately, hope that it resonates and hits a deep chord of exigency with its audience members.

The movie was based on the book of the same name by Angie Thomas, which I read in the summer before watching the movie. There were a few characters and events left out of the movie adaption for the sake of brevity, and some events added or slightly altered in the end to thematically tie the film together, but overall, it stayed true to the heart and humanity of the book. I urge everyone to go watch this film as a powerful and engaging social commentary.

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