Adaptation of Angie Thomas's YA novel about Black Lives Matter gets all its points across, but could have been more powerful
THE HATE U GIVE (George Tillman, Jr.). 132 minutes. Opens Friday (October 12). See listing. Rating: NNN
When Starr, a young Black girl (Amandla Stenberg), finds herself the sole eyewitness in the police shooting of her childhood sweetheart (Algee Smith), she’s unsure what to do, reveal her identity and testify against the white cop or stay silent. Things are complicated by the fact that the local drug lord – who’s also her half-brother’s father – wants her hushed, and her privileged white friends at school have wild misconceptions about the crime.
With police killings of innocent Black people occurring almost weekly, this adaptation of Angie Thomas’s YA bestseller has a real urgency and relevance. But you sense screenwriter Audrey Wells and director George Tillman, Jr. struggling to fit all the novel’s strands into the film, resulting in some underdeveloped characters and a lengthy running time.
Still, the director handles key scenes – including the shooting and other examples of police brutality – effectively, contrasting them with inspired bits of comic relief. And he gets solid work from the cast, especially the charismatic Smith, Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby as Starr’s supportive parents and Stenberg, whose transition from conflicted girl to angry and empowered activist is thrilling to watch.