“The Hate U Give” portrays its themes of discrimination — including police brutality, gentrification and cultural appropriation — in a straightforward manner, leading to a film with a powerful central message.
After Starr Carter witnesses the death of her best friend Khalil at the hands of a white police officer, she is thrust into the limelight following her choice to stand up against injustice.
The impact that Khalil’s death has on Carter, her family and the community as a whole was the best part of the film. It offers a perspective not seen — by those in positions of privilege — outside of protests. This is attributed to the performances of the main cast.
Amandla Stenberg turns in a rousing emotional performance as Carter. All of the tough choices presented to her throughout the film are greeted with sincere, poignant contemplation reflected by the ever-evolving look of pain and despair in her eyes. The release of these emotions is incredibly impactful with every crack in her voice and gasp for air.
Carter’s parents give her strength during this difficult time. Russell Hornsby plays Carter’s father and depicts a strong, morally conscious man who has learned to deal with the systematic racism that has plagued the U.S. for generations.
Most of the dialogue sounds more like inner monologues that take away from the subtlety of the performances and themes.
The dialogue is at its worst during the scenes that take place at the private school Carter attends. This is mostly because the majority of her classmates are portrayed by actors that seem more attune to daytime television. The dialogue written for these characters is incredibly out of touch when it comes to how high schoolers speak. The combination of both these elements leads to some awkward, out-of-place scenes that feel like they belong in a made-for-TV film.
The camera techniques used by director George Tillman Jr. add to the cheap feel. He relies mostly on shot-reverse-shot filmmaking, which at times can remove any sense of flair and style, leaving static, repetitive shots.
The camera work may not be fantastic, but the use of color grading helps drive home certain themes.The utilization of bright vibrant colors in Carter’s hometown help exemplify the feeling of belonging and freedom of expression. The contrast with the drab color palette presented in the high school scenes shows how Carter must blend in at her majority-white school. This drives home the theme of duality and sacrifice of expression.
The implementation of this color grading may be a small stylistic choice, but it is a small glimmer of nuance with the themes. Even though most of these themes are blatant through the use of straightforward, cheesy dialogue, the issues at hand are portrayed adequately through some great performances that add context to the complexity of race relations in the U.S. All of this leads to a film with an important message that should be seen.