Even now, several days later, I'm still reeling and thinking about this movie.
Based on the incredible bestseller by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give has had a huge amount of buzz around it for some time. And when it first reached cinemas reviews backed that up in spades. So with only a few short days to actually go and see this (seriously Odeon stop giving insane numbers of showings to terrible films whilst taking this one off after only a week and a half) it was the kind of film I was determined to make the time for, and I am so glad that I did.
The film follows Starr, a black girl caught between two worlds. Her home life of Garden Heights - a largely black and underprivileged area, and school life at out of town school Williamson - a predominantly white and privileged school. She struggles to reconcile these two halves of herself, feeling like she cannot be truly her in either setting, and finding she loses sight of herself in the process.
The film opens with Starr and her two siblings being given The Talk. Not the one about the birds and the bees, no, this is what to do when they are (there is no if) pulled over by a cop. What to do when they see their father (again, when, not if) stopped and searched. This is a talk that will save their lives, and sets the tone of the film.
It then takes its time setting up the characters and Starr's life, showing you the two versions of her and how deeply uncomfortable she is within that - the moments where she bites her tongue, stays quiet for the sake of keeping the two halves of her separate and tamps down on her initial reactions to things. Starr does her best to blend in, until the pivotal point of the film, where she witnesses her best friend shot dead.
The rest of the film explores the fall out from this. How Starr deals with the grief and trauma that follows. How she tries to come to terms with all that she's feeling, and how these events crack open all that makes her her and follows her journey - developing her identity, her political views, her confidence. As she begins to stand up and roar over the injustice of what is happening.
The view points of the characters around Starr, that are eye opening in so many different ways, showcase a variety of responses to the events, and hold up a mirror to the viewer. We have all either expressed the views depicted, or seen others expressing them. It is hard to watch, uncomfortable in places, but so vitally important.
There are bright sunbursts of humour, and a lot of really gut wrenching emotional moments where you could hear the crying in the cinema. It's at times incredibly difficult to watch, because the story you're witnessing unfold has happened, continues to happen, will keep happening. This isn't some dystopian future where you can disconnect and enjoy, this is the world we're living in now, and it's hard to look at, no matter how beautiful the cinematography.
You will come away from this film heavy with emotion. Hopeful for the future, where people stop the cycle of hate, where hopefully we move forward into a better world. But also saturated with grief at the injustice and horror of this world. The Hate U Give is not an easy film to watch, but it is an important one, a vital one.
After a glut of young adult adaptations, we're moving away from the dystopian fantasy side and looking at real life. With "Love, Simon" and "The Hate U Give" this year has proven that not only can adaptations be done well, but that they are still vitally important and necessary to ground and show pieces of the world, when we're saturated with escapism and fantasy.