By far, one of the most intelligent films of the year. Director George Tillman Jr.’s outstanding depiction of Angie Thomas’ novel “The Hate You Give” is spellbinding; contemporary to the point of comfortable redundancy: we recognize the protagonists, we understand them, we know them, we befriend some and avoid others; characterization developed to perfection, especially “Starr Carter” a dynamic sixteen-year-old whose days are spent in the halls of a privileged, white high school and nights in the ghetto of “Garden Heights” (oxymoronic that so many housing projects are labeled “Cabrini Green”, Altgeld Gardens”, “Rockwell Gardens”, referencing nurturing in a haven of concrete, withering prospects and life expectancy). Amandla Stenberg’s substantive, prescient characterization is stunning in its integrity; Starr is well-versed in the lingo and philosophy of both worlds, until a catastrophic event, decimates the boundaries she has immaculately navigated, forcing a choice she had persistently ignored.
“The Hate You Give” avoids stereotypical depictions, the protagonists are flawed, but interesting: “Maverick Carter”, Starr’s father (Russell Hornsby, magnificent) is an ex-con who teaches his children the “rules of conduct” when confronted with law enforcement; “Lisa Carter” (stupendous Regina Hall) yearns for a neighborhood, unlike theirs, where Starr and her siblings can flourish, her manipulative wisdom, a key force behind Staar’s attendance in a private school; “Chris” (KJ Apa, naively wonderful), “does not see color” and adores Starr for what he sees beyond her hue; “Khalil” (charismatic Algee Smith), a childhood “crush”, now a drug dealer, still strokes Starr’s compassion and memories of content companionship.
“The Hate You Give” allows for a host of interpretations, blurring definitive parameters; a film about choices, compromises and defining factors; a perspective, an education, enlightenment of alternative communities and those who inhabit them; a compelling narrative to be shared demographically, universally.