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Critic’s Choice: ‘The Hate U Give’ asks tough questions about racial violence and justice

Critic’s Choice: ‘The Hate U Give’ asks tough questions about racial violence and justice
Amandla Stenberg in the movie "The Hate U Give." (Erika Doss)

The shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer made for a grimly topical premise in several American movies last year, including the Sundance favorites “Blindspotting” and “Monsters and Men.” One of the most potent treatments of this story could be found in “The Hate U Give,” George Tillman Jr.’s adaptation of Angie Thomas’ bestselling novel, which is now available in DVD, Blu-ray and streaming formats. With enormous specificity and honesty, it examines how a senseless act of violence reverberates outward into an already bitterly divided community.

Amandla Stenberg gives an impassioned performance as Starr Carter, a teenager who loses a childhood friend and subsequently embarks on a search for her own elusive identity. (As her father, determined to both shield and educate his children, Russell Hornsby gives the movie’s other great performance.) Her journey sustains a tense, emotionally bruising story that thoughtfully considers the intractability of racism, the contradictions of code switching, the power of activism and the elusiveness of justice.

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