Reel Reviews | The Hate U Give

by Tim Gordon

A young girl trapped between two worlds finds her voice after witnessing the brutal murder of her close childhood friend in the powerful story of loss and grief, The Hate U Give.

The story follows Starr Carter who is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a white police officer. Directed by George Tillman Jr. and written by Tina Mabry and Audrey Wells. It is based on Angie Thomas’ 2017 novel of same name. The film stars Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, and Anthony Mackie.

It seems like daily we are deluged with stories of injustice and the rampant killing of African-American men and women by law enforcement. Director George Tillman tackles the subject in this powerful story which highlights the code-switching high school student who attends a mostly white prep school who carefully navigates between a world of privilege and her trouble-filled hood, bolstered by her father, Maverick, former right-hand to the leader of the local gang, the King Lords. After she witnesses, the killing of her close childhood friend and the reaction of both communities who use his death for trivial pursuits, Starr finds her voice and decides to fight the power.


Anchored by strong supporting performances by Russell Hornsby as her flawed, yet proud father; King as her protective mother who understands the risks to her daughter’s safety, as well as Common who bleeds blue but speaks truth to power to his vulnerable niece. Stenberg is fantastic as the proverbial light in darkness who struggles to make this situation make sense to her and later to her community, despite her obvious confusion.

The first Black Lives Matters movie, Mabry and Wells script blends the sensibility of Cornbread, Earl, and Me with the righteous furor and politics of Do the Right Thing, while contemporizing the story for modern audiences. Tupac Shakur’s mantra of the Hate U Give Little Infants F’s Everybody is symbolized in this soul-shaking story of pain and injustice that leaves viewers with the palpable sense that despite our best laid plans, the cycle is sure to continue until we can find a way forward.

Grade: A