Review: The Hate U Give (2018)

The Hate U Give (2018) The Hate U Give (2018)

For a film which manages a difficult setup with elegance and nuance, the resolution feels simple, and confusingly so.

I hadn’t read Angie Thomas‘ novel, and I knew nothing going in to The Hate U Give, and yet I was bawling before anything even happened – just knowing something bad was coming, and feeling so helpless.

Beyond the horrific, unconscionable, oppressive reality of the story, its portrayal is clear-eyed, and its leads (especially Amandla Stenberg as Starr and Lamar Johnson as Seven) are hugely compelling and breathtakingly charming.

The Hate U Give (2018)
The Hate U Give (2018)

However, for a film that works so hard, in ways both simple and nuanced, to convey how complicated the lived experience of systemic racism and socio-economic inequality can be, only to wrap everything up with “And then we solved all that by sending one Bad Black Man to jail”, is… well, for this outside observer, at least a little confusing.

While it maybe be true to this particular story that the villain is an individual (and one portrayed with palpable menace by Anthony Mackie), such a neat ending lets down a film that otherwise does such a good job of portraying the systemic and institutional frameworks that create the context for such villainy.

At the same time, The Hate U Give features a monologue explaining the police side of the story, delivered by Starr’s cop uncle, played by Common – who, in real life, famously rapped about and visited Assata Shakur, while she was in political exile after being convicted of murdering a state trooper. It’s a casting choice which highlights the complexity of both the individual issues explored, and the formidable task of their juggling, in the film.

While I’m clearly out of my depth here, I feel I can at least speak about the storytelling elements as presented – and they are why I find the ultimate resolution of The Hate U Give… confusing.

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