We tend to associate the “young adult” genre with high concept sci-fi and fantasy stories that tell a story over the course of multiple books and movies. But sometimes the genre can have a more realistic story and tell it in just one movie, and still be successful. Such is the case with The Hate U Give.
Based on the book of the same name, the film is almost something of a companion piece to this year’s Blindspotting. This movie still has all the weighty themes of a typical young adult movie, but instead tells a grounded story that - like Blindspotting - tackles issues such as race relations and police brutality.
The film manages to tell a story that mirrors reality and brings up topical issues that need to be addressed, yet never comes off as too preachy or heavy-handed by doing so, and manages to tell a story that’s accessible to all. And that’s an impressive feat, as the film’s protagonist, Starr, in a way almost feels like another Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen - a young hero with the weight of the world on their shoulders who has the power to resolve the conflict at hand.
But what makes Starr different from other young adult heroes is the fact that she feels so relatable. She’s established as already having a great personality and depth from the very beginning, so it’s easy to maintain a lot of interest in what she has to say and what she goes through as the movie progresses.
What helps too is the fantastic lead performance by Amanda Stenberg. In one of her first starring roles, she proves she can really carry a movie and shows she has a lot to offer. The other highlight is Russell Hornsby as her father, with a commanding presence each time he’s on screen. Anthony Mackie is the film’s antagonist and while he is a bit underused here, when he is on screen he proves he can be pretty terrifying as a villain.
The Hate U Give is better than your average young adult movie and proves you don’t need a high concept setting to tell a solid story in said genre. With a relatable protagonist and a grounded, yet still enjoyable, story, this is definitely worth checking out.
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