The Hate U Give (Blu-ray Review)

2018 featured many films worth praising concerning both entertainment value, as well as social issues. The Hate U Give is one of those films. Nominated for zero Academy Awards, one of the timeliest films of 2018 has arrived on Blu-ray with many hoping it will finally find the audience it deserves. Adapted from a bestselling young adult novel, while some of these adaptations tend to have some important thematic issues buried within, here’s a film that builds no allusions around what it wants to accomplish.


Angie Thomas’ novel was inspired by the police shooting of Oscar Grant, who is just one of the many recent young victims of social injustice. The Hate U Give presents a fictional story that feels all too true, about a black 16-year-old girl, Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), who is thrust into a challenging scenario, after witnessing the police shooting of her childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith). Having grown up in a poor, mostly black neighborhood, but currently attending school in a rich, mostly white, prep school, Starr’s life becomes unbalanced.

Does she become the center of attention by putting her voice out there, making a note of Khalil’s involvement with a local drug dealer (Anthony Mackie) and putting her family at risk? Or does Starr keep her head down, due to pressure from other parts of the community, with an eye on keeping a sense of anonymity from those she attends school with?

One of the central tropes we see in young adult stories that focus on futuristic societies is how the lead must travel the path of the classic hero’s journey. It’s not a bad formula when one can make it work well for the story being told. Interestingly enough here, Starr may not have special powers in her contemporary world, but she is the “chosen one” in another sense.

As the film presents the difficulties of her position, it becomes clear that Starr is being given an origin story for how she becomes an activist. Starr’s unique ability turns out to be her voice, and her empowerment, throughout this film, is developed by way of coming to understand that the system may or may not be broken, but it is, at the very least, rigged when it comes to people of color.

Wisely, the film finds a way to be more than just a presentation of social commentary on race and police brutality. The Hate U Give gets a lot more out of the character transformation. Police practically serve as a non-entity in the grand scheme of things, as this is Starr’s story, and her interactions are largely with the people in her neighborhood and at school.

Beyond the tense (and inevitable) sequence where Khalil is killed, the important police-related sequences stem from the terrific Russell Hornsby as Starr’s father, Maverick. The film opens with him giving his kids “The Talk” (not the one about sex, but the one where black children learn how to respond when getting pulled over by cops). Later on, Maverick must deal with this very issue.

Viewing all of this from Starr’s point of view, director George Tillman Jr. manages to do a lot with both the intensity of the drama surrounding her and how the audience can learn the information that’s needed at the time. It’s a bit strange, given that Starr’s narration borders on intrusive a bit too often (particularly at the end), but there are many times when Tillman allows the audience to come to understand certain aspects about her family through natural conversation.

It’s also important to note the coming-of-age aspect of this story. Being a high school student with a loving family that also includes her wonderful mother (Regina Hall), half brother (Lamar Johnson), and younger brother (TJ Wright), this film balances the drama with plenty of moments of warmth. The middle section of this film suffers a bit by giving us predictable ups and downs, as far as tender moments of bonding, followed by shocking moments to propel the audience back into specific horrors of reality, but it comes with this sort of territory. There’s also the school element, which finds the film working hard to make sure Starr’s efforts aren’t limited to the community.

Having a couple of friends (Sabrina Carpenter, Megan Lawless) and a boyfriend (KJ Apa) around allows the film to dive into some appropriate melodramatic areas that only add to what the film is trying to say about how society tends to look at the issues that plague reality. Not hurting is Tillman’s stylistic choice to change up the visual look of the community from warm colors to a much cooler color pallet whenever venturing to the prep school. It further highlights Starr’s attempts to assimilate, before realizing that may not be the most necessary way to handle being from a different world.

With the depiction of peaceful protests growing more towards possible rioting, and a subplot involving the gang activity in Starr’s community, The Hate U Give finds plenty of material to allow the film to feel expansive. Having the focus be on her struggles with identity keeps the film grounded, without feeling too weighed down by the general premise of the story. All of the actors do terrific work here, with Stenberg and Hornsby, in particular, standing out. Whether that’s enough to help provide the film award consideration, this movie has enough going for it to start a conversation.

The Hate U Give is the sort of studio production that should be embraced more often. Especially in sensitive times concerning the nature of various identities attempting to co-exist, here’s a film with enough mainstream appeal to be more than just a mandated lecture for moviegoers. The movie is full of personality, even if the subject matter is often quite dramatic. I suppose that’s also what can be inferred from the young adult label. Even in tough times, a movie like this can still be for everyone.



Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: While the film is inspiring, it is still a drama dealing with a police shooting, which is why it’s all the more impressive to see this transfer do a great job of capturing the various color pallets that are purposely designed to highlight the locations Starr is in. It allows for a proper level of detail to be seen and register properly depending on the lighting of a given scene.

Depth: Depth of field is captured well here, with a level of dimensionality that comes across quite well. An early standoff, in particular, does a great job of raising a level of tension thanks to how character spacing plays a role.

Black Levels: Shadow and black levels are terrific throughout. Some nighttime and dimly lit interiors are presented with no issue. The detail here is very strong, allowing audiences to properly see a level of clarity necessary for a film shot digitally.

Color Reproduction: Colors look great. Again, there’s a deliberate approach to the cinematography that’s effective for this film, as it emphasizes the role code-switching plays in the movie. Home scenes have an earthy feel, while the school scenes have a cool blue, etc. There’s a lot at play, and the colors shine throughout.

Flesh Tones: Character detail is excellent. Facial textures are handled in all the right ways, especially for a film with characters where the lighting is of major importance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.



Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: With a 7.1 lossless track, there’s plenty of room for this film to impress you with its audio. The film has so much activity going on, and it all sounds great regarding balance. Environments come alive, with a good amount of depth to round out the experience.

Low-Frequency Extension: Some rallies and soundtrack choices allow the LFE channel to get a bit of a workout.

Surround Sound Presentation: There’s a high level of immersion taking place thanks to the balanced audio track presentation. The film is front and center-focused, but the rear channels do an excellent job of keeping ambient sounds present as well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone can explain their message loud and clear.



Given the film, this Blu-ray features a healthy selection of extras covering the various aspects of the film. Perhaps more could have been done to show the filmmaking process to a lengthier extent, but between the commentary and some insightful discussions, there’s a lot to appreciate here.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with director George Tillman, Jr., screenwriter Angie Thomas, film editor Craig Hayes, and stars Amandla Stenberg and Russell Hornsby – This is a terrific set of people to have to discuss the film, the themes, and more.
  • Extended Scenes (HD, 15:21)
  • Starting a Conversation (HD, 10:07) – The cast and crew discuss the intent of the film.
  • The Talk (HD: 8:25) – This feature goes over the sad but important conversation black families have.
  • Code Switching (HD, 9:20) Some archival interviews with Thomas go over the nature of people of various ethnicities switching up their dialects depending on the scenario they are in.
  • Starr: Shine Your Light (HD, 13:42) Thomas and Hillman talk about the writing of the film.
  • The Heart of Georgia (HD, 5:05) This is a look at the production.
  • Thank U Georgia (HD, 2:11) – Here’s a small feature highlighting the joy of filming in Georgia.
  • Gallery (HD, 3:05)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:26)
  • DVD Copy of the Film
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film



While the film was a bigger hit in critic circles than at the box office or when it came to the prestigious end of year awards, The Hate U Give still has plenty to offer and a lot of acclaim to back it up. Not hurting is this fantastic Blu-ray presentation, which features stunning video and audio transfers, along with a robust collection of extras to give any viewer plenty of great bonus material to round out the experience. This is a film well worth keeping an eye out for.

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