Based on Angie Thomas’ bestselling 2017 YA novel, this social justice drama revolves around teenage Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), who is trying to maintain an emotional balance as she straddles two disparate worlds. Raised in the poor, predominantly black Georgia neighborhood of Garden Heights, Starr goes to Williamson Prep a private, predominantly white suburban school. That involves constant code-switching.
Her conscientious parents – Maverick (Russell Hornsby) and Lisa (Regina Hall) – have made Starr, her half-brother Seven (Lamar Johnson) and younger brother Sekani (TJ Wright) acutely aware of police harassment of black people, drilling them on how to respond respectfully if/when they’re stopped.
One night, when Starr goes to a local party, she runs into Khalil (Algee Smith), a childhood pal, who is now dealing drugs for King (Anthony Mackie), the crime lord whose gang terrorizes Garden Heights.
As Khalil is driving her home, he changes lanes without signaling and they’re stopped. Standing alongside his vehicle, Khalil reaches inside for his hairbrush, which the policeman thinks is a gun. Khalil is shot and dies in the street with panicked Starr at his side.
As an ex-con, her devoted father understands the PTSD Starr is suffering, and her uncle Carlos (Common), a cop himself, tries to explain the nightly tension that law enforcement officers face.
Meanwhile, Starr wracked with worry over what would happen to her life at school – the reaction of her classmates and supportive boyfriend Chis (K.J. Apa) – along with King’s inevitable retaliation, if she goes public as the only witness to Khalil’s murder.
Working from the late Audrey Wells’ adapted screenplay, director George Tillman Jr. sharply delineates the conflict, threading the complex thru line of Starr gradually becoming a community activist.
The title refers to the late Tupak Shakur’s acronym: T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E., meaning the hate you give little infants affects everybody. And you can glimpse author Angie Thomas in the climactic protest sequence.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Hate U Give” is a powerful, emotionally evocative 8 – with timely political/cultural relevancy.