Raised in a poverty-stricken slum, a 16-year-old girl named Starr now attends a suburban prep school. After she witnesses a police officer shoot her unarmed best friend, she's torn between her two very different worlds as she tries to speak her truth.
ActorsStarring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, K.J. Apa, Common, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, TJ Wright, Dominique Fishback, Megan Lawless, Tony Vaughn, Karan Kendrick, Susan Santiago, Rayven Symone Ferrell, Marcia Wright, Drew Starkey, Dustin Lewis, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Brian Lafontaine, Al Mitchell, Iyana Halley, Tanya Christiansen, Andrene Ward-Hammond, Heaven Hightower, Myles Evans, Kai N. Ture, Hassan Welch, Maxwell Cardona
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Starr (Amandla Stenberg) lives in the poor, mostly black, neighbourhood of Garden Heights, and attends a private, mainly white, school in a different, wealthy area. Her parents sent her to his school to give her a chance at a better future, but it also means Starr is living two lives, with two personalities. To fit in and not rock the system, she cannot be too black at school and she cannot be too white at home.
Her father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) runs the local grocery store in Garden Heights, a small safe haven in an area ruled by gang violence. He teaches his kids about the realities of being black as well as to be proud of their background, including making them memorise the Black Panther’s Ten-Point Program. Her mother Lisa (Regina Hall) is less principled and seeks to avoid any confrontations that might risk their kids’ futures.
One night when driving home after a party, Starr and her friend Khalil get pulled over by the police for unclear reasons. Khalil doesn’t exactly follow the instructions of the police officer, who gets nervous, thinks he sees a gun, and shoots and kills Khalil.
After Starr gets interrogated she is asked to appear before a grand jury, which would publicly expose her identity as a witness and potentially make her a target in different ways of the media, friends, the police, and especially the gang lord of Garden Heights – as it turns out Khalil was involved in his drugs business. As the only witness to what happened, should Starr speak on behalf of Khalil and other victims of police brutality, or should she stay quiet, keep her head down and finish her school in hope of building a live in a better area one day so she can leave all this behind?
Amandla Stenberg plays a great Starr; she is credible in both her black and her white world personas and brings across the fear, anxiety and dilemmas she has to deal with. Together with Russel Hornsby they carry the movie with small and big emotions alike.
There are enough layers and perspectives in Starr’s extended family to make her environment feel realistic: her father is an ex-con, her mother is a middle-class teacher, her uncle is a cop who looked after Starr while her dad was in prison, her white boyfriend is genuinely interested in understanding her. It would have been easy to use these different backgrounds as stereotypes only, but there is enough depth in each of these characters to make them credible.
Not everything is a success however. The perspective of the policeman who killed Khalil is marginalised; the real antagonist and biggest threat to the Carters and to Garden Heights turns out to be the black gang lord, and the black-on-black violence dominates the plot much more tangibly than the police violence; there are several ‘incidents’ between Starr and her white best friend that feel terribly contrived; when Starr introduces her white boyfriend to her father, it turns out Maverick himself cannot look past the colour of the boy’s skin; and the ending is all far too neat in tying everything up.
But it would be too easy to dismiss the movie based on its shortcomings. The point of a movie like this is to raise an issue and invite the audience to consider the different perspectives, bring their own, and develop an opinion. As a Young Adult movie, The Hate U Give does more than enough of that to be worth your time.