Starr Carter slides her feet into her favorite pair of Air Jordans—black retro Space Jam XIs— before hopping into her mother’s car and making the long trek to school. They pass the black-owned grocery stores, restaurants, barber shops, and “project” apartment buildings that line the weathered streets of Garden Heights. As they travel to the suburbs, the scenery transforms into mansions, luxury cars, and white people walking their dogs. The car stops in front of Starr’s ritzy private high school, Williamson Prep. She says goodbye to her mother and morphs into who she calls “Starr version two.” This Starr doesn’t speak with hood slang; she’s mild-mannered and non-confrontational, and always has a warm smile, even for the rich white students who make fried-chicken jokes around her. The only other things that survive the transition from “Garden Heights Starr” to “Williamson Starr” are her Jordans, the shoes that earn her style points in both places. Otherwise, “I gotta keep it separate,” Starr the narrator informs viewers. “That means flipping the switch in my brain.”
Adapted from Angie Thomas’s critically acclaimed YA novel by the same name, The Hate U Give is a film about Starr (played by Amandla Stenberg), a black teenager who sees her childhood best friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), get shot and killed by a police officer after a routine traffic stop goes horribly wrong. Starr is then forced to decide whether she’ll adhere to the code of the street and keep silent about what she saw, or testify in front of a grand jury and join a burgeoning movement to end antiblack violence and police misconduct in communities like hers. Poignantly and judiciously rendered, The Hate U Give has received praise from critics and moviegoers during its limited run, and opens in theaters across the United States on Friday.