The Hate U Give tackles uncomfortable topics

Róisínj Phelan

T opening scene of ‘The Hate U Give’ sets the precedent for what is to come. At a humble kitchen table a father, played by Russell Hornsby, gives his children ‘The Talk’. It is a speech explaining the dangers they will face because they are African-American, and how the people that should protect them, the police, are the people they have to be most careful of. Hornsby plays this scene with a sincerity and familiarity that heightens the audience’s interest and emotional investment in the film instantly.

Based on the New York Times best selling young adult novel by Angie Thomas, it is clear from the beginning that it’s plot will revolve around this family, and the importance of the children understanding and following the rules of their father’s talk.

Released in Irish cinemas on October 22nd, the film approaches the topic of police brutality in America, through the experiences of teenage girl, Starr, played by Amandla Stenberg after she becomes the sole witness in the murder of her friend Khalil by a police officer.

Director George Tillman Jr. excellently portrayed the contrast between the two worlds in which Starr lives: her African-American majority town of ‘Garden Heights’, and her private, majority white school, through lighting and music. When Starr is in school, the set is bright, light, airy and pristine, but when Starr is on her local streets, it’s musky, dim and messy.

The soundtrack also reflected the conflict and contrast with sweet soothing songs such as ‘Ocean Eyes’ by Billie Eilish playing while she is with her white friends, and grittier, powerful rap anthems such as ‘DNA’ by Kendrick Lamar and ‘Goosebumps’ by Travis Scott playing when she is with her black friends.

This film is not an easy one to watch. Scenes of riots, funerals and protests looked authentic and were gut-wrenching to see. A credit to the cast, and Audrey Wells who adapted the book into it’s screenplay, for keeping scenes honest and painfully true.

The twenty-year-old breakthrough actress Stenberg has starred in two other films in 2018, The Darkest Minds and Where Hands Touch. The Darkest Minds was screened in Irish cinemas and had reasonable success, but was based on a fictional apocalyptic world, showing the ability of Stenberg as an actress to move between different genres effortlessly.

The Hate U Give Young Infants F*cks Everyone (THUGLIFE), inspired by Tupac, was a phrase which acted like a spine throughout the film. Reappearing just often enough to remind viewers that the stunts, gunfights and riots, though entertaining, had a real effect on the kids in the film and in real life. Most notably, it was used in Khalil’s final conversation with Starr, directly before he was shot, and at the very end of the film when Starr’s younger brother takes matters into his own hands, an example of a young infant who has grown up in hate. Overall, I would recommend taking the time to see this film. Though not necessarily aimed at an older audience, it has a universal message that is a joy to witness on the screens of Irish and international cinemas.

Roisín Phelan

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