Director: George Tillman Jr.
Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby

It’s hard to diagnose why people weren’t turning out in droves to see The Hate U Give, in which stars Amandla Stenberg and Russell Hornsby deliver some of the finest performances of the year. Perhaps it’s because the film could be lazily characterized as an “issues movie” when the story is more universal than that.

Essentially, The Hate U Give is a powerful coming-of-age story in which unexpected tragedy forces a girl to decide who she is. Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter (Stenberg) is caught between two worlds—the affluent prep school where she’s one of few black students and has a white boyfriend, and the hood her father (Hornsby) doesn’t want to leave. When Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend, it puts her at odds with every community she’s been trying to navigate. The stakes only get higher as Starr grapples with her identity and whether she has any real power to effect “justice.”

It’s a gut-wrenching film that leaves no emotion intact, and that rare cinematic experience alone is worth the price of your ticket. —Dria Roland