Amandla Stenberg in a scene from the movie The Hate U Give.
Amandla Stenberg in a scene from the movie The Hate U Give. ERIKA DOSS

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hate U Give a YA game changer

THE HATE U GIVE

FOUR STARS

Director George Tillman Jr

Starring Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Algee Smith

Rating M

Running time 133 minutes

A bold, political, engaging teen trailblazer

 

JUST when you thought YA literature was in danger of disappearing down a dystopian black hole comes a game-changing coming-of-age story told from the perspective of a young African-American woman.

Adapted from Angie Thomas' best-selling book of the same name, The Hate U Give is a hugely ambitious exploration of adolescence, police brutality, social justice and grassroots activism.

What's perhaps most remarkable about this impassioned teen melodrama is how much ground it covers while keeping its target audience emotionally engaged.

In a big step up from his previous work, director George Tillman Jr (The Longest Ride, Faster) deftly interweaves issues of black identity, white entitlement, racial stereotyping and systemic violence into a hard hitting tale of female empowerment - while still taking time to acknowledge the significance of scuff marks on white Nikes.

Starr (Amandla Stenberg) is a young woman caught between two words.
Starr (Amandla Stenberg) is a young woman caught between two words.

He couldn't have done it without a star-making performance from Amandla Stenberg, who first caught the world's attention as Rue in The Hunger Games (2012).

The 20-year-old actor/activist covered some of the same ground in her video essay Don't Cash Crop on My Cornrows, which led to an invitation from Oprah Winfrey to deliver a couple of SuperSoul sessions (Oprah's version of TedEx).

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter (Stenberg) lives in a poor, ghettoised black neighbourhood but attends a high-achieving and primarily white high school in a neighbouring suburb.

Although she can "pass" in both worlds, she doesn't feel at home in either.

When Starr becomes the sole witness in a police shooting involving her unarmed childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), her two worlds collide.

Starr’s two words collide when she is witness to a police shooting.
Starr’s two words collide when she is witness to a police shooting.

It's a rude awakening for a girl who, up until now, has devoted her energy to blending in.

Most female empowerment movies focus on the importance of their subject finding their voice. But in The Hate U Give, the stakes are unusually high.

Pressured by law enforcement officers on one side, and intimidated by the local drug lord on the other, it's hardly surprising that Starr's initial attempts are a little croaky.

The Hate U Give takes its title from Tupac's THUG Life concept: The Hate You Give Little Infants F...s Everybody.

Starr must work out what the acronym means to her against a backdrop of riots, coercion, frenemies and boy trouble.

Intelligent, accessible, emotionally arresting and relevant … what more could a young cinema-going audience ask for?

The Hate U Give opens in cinemas tomorrow.


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