Recently I have been mentioning Angie Thomas a bit over on Bookwitch. Before Saturday’s EIBF event with her, I wanted to read her books, and ended up reading the second one and watching the film of the first book on DVD. I thought this would be efficient use of my time. One problem now is that I liked the film so much that I might need to read the book too.
Having read On the Come Up, I felt that The Hate U Give exactly mirrored Angie’s writing. I almost sat there nodding my head in agreement with everything, as though I was reading the book. Knowing how most films are not exactly like the novels they are based on, I should probably treat the film with a little pinch of salt. And then read the book.
A refreshingly black film, I was aware that I don’t know much at all. I’ve no experience of the lives the characters lead, and it was often hard to hear what they were saying. But that’s me, not them. Just as fans of the books like the fact that the characters speak like them, that goes for the film as well.
The Carter family live in a poor, black neighbourhood, but ambition for their children means that all three are sent to the mostly white school further away. As the main character Starr says, she’s another person when she’s at school. She has to be. And Starr does it so well that none of her friends have an inkling what her real life is like.
Starr is with a childhood friend when he is shot and killed by the police. Her whole life changes. She doesn’t know what to do or whose advice she should take, but eventually she realises she needs to stand up for her friend and do ‘the right thing.’
It’s a bleak situation, handled very well. As Angie said, she needs triumph to balance the trauma, so it’s not all negative. But to stay true to what so many black people face every day, this feels like a hopeless situation. You shouldn’t have to spend every day in fear of what the police will do if they ‘notice’ you. Except this is reality for millions in America.
Starr’s family are not perfect, but they work together. Her dad has been in jail, and her mum is another strong mother, just like Bri’s in On the Come Up. There are friends, neighbours, an uncle, even the local crooks.
I rather wish they had not made Starr’s white boyfriend* look like a Republican senator-to-be, but other than that this film was pretty perfect. It’s certainly an eye-opener. The question is whether those who need to see it, will.
(Photo © Erika Doss)
*I understand that the original actor was dropped because he made racist remarks. That proves how necessary books and films like this one are.