Reviewed by: Francisco Gomez Jr.
The importance of standing against racism and hate
Does an apparent lack of jobs and opportunities justify adopting a life of crime?
Dealing with the death of a childhood friend
Amandla Stenberg … Starr Carter
Regina Hall … Lisa Carter
Russell Hornsby … Maverick “Mav” Carter
Anthony Mackie … King
Issa Rae … April Ofrah
Common … Carlos
Algee Smith … Khalil
Sabrina Carpenter … Hailey
K.J. Apa … Chris
Dominique Fishback … Kenya
Lamar Johnson … Seven Carter
TJ Wright … Sekani
Megan Lawless … Maya
Rhonda Johnson Dents … Miss Rosalie
Tony Vaughn … Mr. Lewis
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|Director:||George Tillman Jr.—“Faster” (2010), “Notorious” (2009), producer—“Barbershop” (2002)|
|Producer:||Fox 2000 Pictures
State Street Pictures
Temple Hill Entertainment
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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
“The Hate U Give” is directed by George Tillman Jr. and stars Amandla Stenberg as the main protagonist Starr Carter. It is based on the novel written by Angie Thomas. The film follows Starr as she deals with the loss of a friend Khalil (Algee Smith). Khalil is pulled over during a routine traffic stop after escaping from a party with Starr. The situation escalates, and Khalil is asked to step out of the car. While the officer runs his license, Khalil reaches in through the window for his hairbrush, and the officer shoots Khalil, as he mistakes the brush for a gun. Starr as a witness to the incident, must decide if she should testify in court for Khalil, or stay silent. Her decision comes in the midst of her trying to be a normal teenage girl, and having to deal with other problems along the way.
I’ve now had the privilege to review many movies under this fantastic ministry, and there has never been a harder movie to review because of the sensitive nature of the topic. Let’s explore this complex movie, its relevant issues, objectionable content, and moviemaking quality, asking God for guidance and blessing as we do it.
In terms of moviemaking quality, Tillman’s techniques work for the most part. While there is nothing incredibly groundbreaking, his directing hand is steady. The movie is further bumped by a fantastic and sometimes heartbreaking performance by Stenberg who clearly has a bright future in acting ahead of her. Smith—who is perhaps best known for his fantastic performance in “Detroit” (2017)—is on for a brief amount of time, but makes the most of it. As a matter of fact, the whole cast does a fantastic job. Audrey Wells did a good job with the adapted screenplay, without losing the pace of the film or bogging down the audience with too many details, as is the tendency in adaptations. Something that is perhaps hard to notice, but very well done, is the lighting that often serves to convey mood.
The real interesting part of this film is its handling of hot button issues, and they are issues that some try to avoid. They are not easy to understand and not easy to address, but let’s explore what the film has to say, and how it matches with God’s Word—the ultimate authority in the life of a follower of Christ.
Disclaimer: This film is very clearly Left-leaning, and in no way do I agree with the entirety of the movie. However, as I have done with other films, I comment on issues, themes, and questions raised in the film to the best of my ability through God’s Word. My take on these hot button issues does not necessarily represent the opinions of Christian Answers. This disclaimer is often understood without saying, but I thought it may be necessary to explicitly explain, as I suspect this film may be of deeper personal connection to many viewers such as minorities or law enforcement. As a result, the relevant issues part of the review is longer than usual, as issues like these require much care. If you would like to jump to the objectionable content section of this review or my summary, skip ahead. Furthermore, the issues I explore are the larger problems of racism and prejudice, as police shootings is an issue too complex to explore in a movie review.
In the beginning of the film, Starr mentions the need of living a double life. Her family lives in Garden Heights: an impoverished neighborhood with a high crime rate. However, Starr goes to school at Williamson, a majority white school in a higher social economic area. This contrast creates a conflict within her, as she is in the middle of two worlds who do not really understand each other. To the residents of Garden Heights, Williamson people are a bunch of snobs who “pop molly’s (slang for ecstasy) and listen to Taylor Swift.” The Williamson people think Garden Heights residents are “hood.” The gap of understanding between these two worlds is a situation that we may often find ourselves in: it is hard to put yourself in the experience of others, when you have never been in that situation.
It is also easy to forget our own past hardships when one falls into comfort, as was often the case with the Israelites. They would cycle through being oppressed, falling into sin, being freed by God’s grace, becoming complacent, returning to sinful ways and oppressing others as they were oppressed. It was when the Israelites forgot what it felt like to be enslaved, that they began taking God’s freedom for granted, and their souls would harden. Everyone then did what was right in his own eyes.
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” -Judges 21:25
If we get lost in our comfort and privilege, it is hard to focus on God. Just as King Solomon forgot about the One who gave him prosperity. This is why God commands us to keep him in focus.
The center of our lives must always be our Lord. What are the implications of this on an issue such as racism?
While there may be a lot of debate around issues such as police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and specific cases of police shooting an unarmed person of a minority, there is something that is not debatable: racism is an evil that Christians must oppose, and that Christ himself toppled on the cross. When we come to salvation, we are all one in Christ with no divisions based on races, ethnicity, gender or age.
In fact, God does not look at humans as we often do. He is uninterested in their height, color, or appearance; what God wants to see in us is a pure heart—a heart that is devoted to holy righteousness—loving Him and our fellow humans.
“…the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” —1 Samuel 16:7
I think it’s safe to assume that most people in America—not just Christians—would agree that racism is not good. I suspect that relatively few people are consciously racist, however the film tries to tackle something deeper: prejudice. In one scene the film does a good job of showing the misunderstanding and underlying issue of both sides. Starr discusses the shooting with her uncle Carlos who works in law enforcement. Carlos explains that Khalil was acting erratic, and the officer naturally feared for his life. The officer had no way of knowing that Khalil was reaching for a hairbrush rather than a gun and responded by protecting himself. Carlos confesses that he would have most likely done the same.
To which Starr answers “If Khalil was white, would you have said ‘hands up,’ instead of shooting?” To which Carlos reluctantly answers, “Yes.” Carlos is black, and the movie argues that the issue is the prejudice we have towards others, without getting to know them or investigating them more.
The conversation in the film reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend. My friend is a mighty follower of Christ, and is extremely compassionate towards all people. That love for others has recently led to a calling of missions on her life. We discussed the hyper sensationalism of race in America—in news, media, and films (such as this one)—yet very few people seem to be consciously racist. She shared a story about how she was sitting in her car, and a group of black youth passed by. She instinctively locked her car for safety. She confessed that if it were a group of white youth, she would not have felt in danger. She realized that there were subtle, unconscious nuisances of prejudice present in her life.
Why is that? I do not pretend to speak for everyone, or to know the deep recesses of our fallen state, but I believe it’s simply the fear of what we do not entirely understand. She is most familiar with people who are like her, and naturally more cautious to unfamiliar people. The conflict of these two unfamiliar worlds are personified in Starr in the film. We fear what we do not understand, and we may not seek to understand because we fear. The police officer feared Khalil because he did not know him, all he knows is that he patrols through a dangerous neighborhood. Starr feared the police officer because of what she had been taught by her parents and seen in her experiences.
The movie makes a statement that “the hate you give, is the hate we give.” People often reciprocate what they experience in our sinful states. They reciprocate hate with hate, and violence with violence. This is why the Gospel—of which love and peace are integral—is so important in our times. Where misunderstanding remains, we are in danger of a never ending cycle of destruction.
Why? Because God is often absent from these types of hot topic discussions. Prejudice and racism is not a “white” condition, it is seen all around the world with different types of people oppressing others. Prejudice and racism are a sin condition. Like any other sin, it can only be fully treated by the transformative power of Christ through the renewing of our minds.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” —Romans 12:1
However, both sides often ignore God. The Left tries to address these issues secularly, and the result—also depicted in the film—is reciprocating the perceived wrong doing with violence. Peaceful protests may become violent protests as has been the case in a few Black Lives Matter rallies. On the other side, some Christians may be concerned with being a stereotypical Christian conservative, forgetting that our true goal is to be like Christ, not an American archetype of superficial righteousness. The result of both these extremes is dangerous.
Do not allow the Enemy to perpetuate evil by keeping the Church out of these discussions, or by making us think that issues such as these are “Liberal” or “secular.” The secular world too often controls the narrative. The evils of racism are allowed to persist because the Left (such as this book and film) approaches the issue secularly, and some Christians may excuse themselves from approaching the issue at all by claiming to avoid corroborating with the liberal, secular world, etc. The secular world, Black Lives Matter, and politics are not the light of the world; we are. We should not leave these issues to be dealt with by others by standing aside and secluding ourselves.
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” —John 17:15
Followers of Christ should keep in mind that the Son of God did not come to live and die in the unjust ancient world (of the Jews, Romans, Greeks, Samaritans, slavery, poverty and oppression) inorder to bring SOCIAL JUSTICE to the world. He came to provide the light of truth and offer ETERNAL LIFE. Read the Bible and you will see that although Jesus hates truly injustice, He did not come to be a Social Justice Warrior (SJW). The Bible reveals that this sin-depraved world, dominated by mankind’s powerful Enemy and his host of followers, will remain wicked and unjust until Christ returns in judgment.
Our Lord’s great commission to His disciples (and all His followers) is to become His witnesses—telling all who He truly is and sharing the good news of the SALVATION that He has made freely available to all who truly believe in Him—and who therefore confess their personal sins and repent—surrendering their lives to Him.
He commanded us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded…” Jesus Christ is the only ultimate answer to our true need and the world’s troubles; anything else is just a temporary band-aid.
We should ask God to transform our minds so we may be able to discern what His “good, pleasing and perfect will” is in hard topics like these. Let us not shy away from them, but charge toward them with the banner of the Gospel. For the Gospel is power.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” —Psalm 51:10
Join me in asking God what he wants his people to do when it comes to hard topics as these. Asking Him for wisdom along the way.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” —James 1:5
Lord give us the ears and discernment to carry out Your will and share Your Gospel.
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” —Revelation 2:7
Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to die or suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
Thank you for bearing with me on a hard topic, let’s get back to the content of the film.
Vulgar Language and Profanity: Language is one of this film’s biggest problems. It was surprising to see how prevalent it was. An f-word automatically warrants a “Heavy” rating. Words to expect are: f-words (4—with 2 simply represented by an “F”) • s-words (30) • “a**” (15+) • “p*ss” / “p*ssing” / “p*ssed” • “bitch” • “son of a b*tch” • “Tag team a ho” (whore) • “Hos” • “Hoe-dome” • “Holy sh*t” • “Oh my G*d” (5) • “G*d” • “d*mn” (14) • “H*ll” (7)
Violence: The strongest instance of violence is the shooting of Khalil. He lays on the floor bleeding and convulsing as Starr cries by her side. There are guns present throughout the movie. There are instances of rioting shown.
Sex/Nudity: There is no nudity in the film. Starr and her boyfriend occasionally kiss. There are a few non explicit crude jokes made by Starr’s parents. It is also implied that Starr’s boyfriend wanted to have extramarital sex, as he pulled out a condom in one instance, but Starr rejected his advances. In a party scene, there are a few quick shots of sexually suggestive dancing.
Alcohol/Drugs: Alcohol is present during a party, and underage drinking is implied. References to molly (ecstasy) and drug dealing is made.
Directing his cast of actors, Tillman produced a film that has good cinematic quality. The issues raised are important ones. Of course, the film is not written from a Christian perspective, and thus many of its concepts and handling of issues are divergent from some of our beliefs. Furthermore, a few other movies may have explored this issue better. Christians should not need a secular movie to get involved in issues like these. However, this film may be useful to some who are not sufficiently familiar with how some secularists think about these issues, and, as a result, may have difficulty sharing the Gospel with them—or understanding them. However, you must personally discern and pray about whether this movie will be conducive to your spiritual growth, or if its content (which includes plenty of language) is more likely to be a stumbling block for you. Remember…
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” —Proverbs 4:23
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.