‘The Hate U Give’ is an intense and necessary family-viewing pick.
Kernel Rating: 4 (4 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 132 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. This film based on the young adult novel by Angie Thomas depicts what happens to a community after a white polite officer kills an unarmed black teenager, and what happens in the film skews fairly close to what we’ve seen occur in real life when this happens. There are frank depictions of and discussions regarding race and racism, including arguments and threatening situations; a local gang deals drugs; the teenager’s death is shown; teens drink, infrequently curse, and smoke at a party; and there is various violence, including an altercation between a group of protestors and police, a teenage boy is beaten by an older adult, gunshots at a party, and a store is set on fire with people inside. This is definitely a film that could warrant a lot of discussion afterward between parents and children, but it may be too much for tweens and younger teens.
By Roxana Hadadi
“The Hate U Give” is an important film and a weighty film, one that raises questions about what we as a society will accept — from our community members, from our leaders, from the politicians who are supposed to represent us, from the police who are supposed to protect us. The movie, based on the novel by Angie Thomas, considers a tragedy that feels simultaneously ripped from the headlines and quite commonplace: the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer. The ways “The Hate U Give” examines how the effects of that act reverberate outward and upend a community are compelling and devastating, and this is a film that will inspire meaningful conversations between parents and teen viewers about its themes and its messages.
The film focuses on high school junior Starr (Amandla Stenberg, of “The Darkest Minds”), who lives in a predominantly black neighborhood with her parents, her older half-brother, and her younger brother. Her father had previously been involved in a local gang, but turned his life around after serving time in prison, and her mother is determined that her children not end up in the same situation. So Starr and her siblings attend a predominantly white school in another neighborhood, and the young woman finds herself code-switching constantly. She speaks one way around her home friends and one way around her school friends, and she knows that the other girls at school don’t understand why the wealthy and handsome Chris (KJ Apa) is dating her, and she never invites anyone home.
Starr is used to living a divided life, but the boundaries between her worlds immediately blur when her childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), is killed by a police officer during a traffic stop. In handcuffs next to Khalil as he dies, Starr is shattered by the incident, and her parents are worried about what this will all mean for their family — does she get called upon to tell her story? Will she have to appear before a grand jury? How will this affect her friendships and relationships at school? And how will their friends and neighbors act when they hear what Starr has to say?
“The Hate U Give” is thought-provoking all around thanks to a screenplay by Audrey Wells, who insightfully explores Starr’s different identities and how she has to act differently all the time. Stenberg shoulders that responsibility well, selling Starr as a young woman increasingly bothered by her white friends’ indifference and more in tune with the frustrations of her community, the people grieving Khalil along with her. As her parents, Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall are supportive and compassionate, and Apa, Lamar Johnson as Starr’s half-brother Seven, and Anthony Mackie as gang leader King also round out the strong ensemble.
Perhaps “The Hate U Give” lasts a little too long, but the subplots it explores about black identity, tensions between underserved communities and the police officers supposedly protecting them, and how a community moves on from tragedy are well-intentioned and nuanced. “The Hate U Give” will spark complicated but necessary discussions afterward, and the film’s honesty makes for a gripping viewing experience that reminds you that we have to be involved, engaged, and aware of the world around us, its tragedies, and how we can come together to do better.
Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.