I'm starting to write this review at 11:13pm. I have to be at work at 6:00am. I don't even care. I just got home from watching this film and I need to talk about it.
This is one of my absolute favorite films of 2018 so far...#SpoilerAlert!
The Hate U Give is one of those rare films after which I feel the need to immediately express my opinions. It's a topical film for sure - racist cops vs. black people - and we've seen it done many times recently. Detroit, Blindspotting, LA 92, Straight Outta Compton, Fruitvale Station, 13th, BlacKkKlansman...all of these films, and more, have discussed the issue of police brutality against black people in one way or another. This film provides the same immediate call to action that I felt walking out of those films. However, I personally believe The Hate U Give takes it to the next level and shines brighter than any other films of similar nature. This film won't be for everybody, but it absolutely is for everybody.
What makes this film so special? Its characters, its screenplay, and its willingness to explore more than just "racist white cop kills black man." It talks about the violence within black communities and neighborhoods. It dives deep into the psyche of its characters and explores how these tragedies trouble these people and communities. It explores how tough it is to be a black cop when these tragedies arise. It even, albeit very briefly, explores how the tragedy affects the family of the white cop who murdered the black teenager and how a lot of people tend to sympathize with the cops and their families. I don't want to spoil any specific scenes, but this particular scene where a white teenage girl sympathizes with the cop is pretty emotionally brutal.
The dialogue was brilliantly written and the story flows so seamlessly in a way that allows the viewer to get to know every character and develop an emotional connection, almost immediately. I was already crying just 30 or so minutes into the film (and pretty much never stopped) because of how much I already cared about the characters and what was happening. The film explores the flaws of every character while also giving everyone a chance to shine - to be a light in the darkness. When the going gets tough, do you flee the situation for your own good or stay and see that change is made for everyone's good? Are your reasons to live also your reasons to die? How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to be the real you? If you are a voice that needs to be heard, is there a legitimate excuse to silence yourself?
It'd be a crying shame if I didn't give a lot of credit to the every actor and actress that turned in a brilliant performance; they all did. Lamar Johnson, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Common, TJ Wright, Algee Smith, KJ Apa, Sabrina Carpenter...they were all great. There is one actress that shines bright above the rest, though, and is certainly a "Starr" on the rise. You may know her as Rue from The Hunger Games, but I know her as Amandla Stenberg. I know this film won't get any Oscar-level buzz, but Stenberg's performance truly needs to be in the conversation for Best Actress and Hornsby needs to be in the talks for Best Supporting Actor. Their chemistry with each other, their raw emotion, their facial expressions...it was all beautiful, real, and powerful.
The film has a runtime of 2 hours and 14 minutes and I thought I was going to feel that runtime. I didn't. I was so invested into this film that I forgot I ordered nachos and never noticed when the dine-in server placed my food in front of me. I can't believe I wasted $11 on those nachos...dang. Oh well. I regret nothing. I was worried that it was going to be over 2 hours of beating us over the head with hopeless characters and depressing topics, but The Hate U Give has a strong sense of realism and optimism that I've not seen from any film on this topic. The filmmakers did a great job of balancing the important and powerful dramatic moments with moments of pure joy, laughter, and hope. Normally I like to share the one or two quotes from a film that really affect me and shake me to the core, but there are too many in this film. Just go see the film when it expands nationwide in a few days and you'll [hopefully] understand why I have no issues with this film and feel comfortable enough to give it a perfect score.