3. The Hate U Give
Top 3 time and I’m starting off (obviously) on a high note. I never read the original novel for this when it came out, but I remember all the talk about it and how great it was. And, having now watched the film version, I can safely say I definitely believe it. This movie was fantastic on almost every level. From the writing to the acting to the story to the direction, it was near pitch perfect and continued bucketloads of interesting themes and ideas and explorations of what it means to be black in modern day America. It honestly says something that, when brainstorming about this movie, the biggest flaw I could come up with is that I’m too used to Anthony Mackie being Falcon to buy him as a ruthless gang lord.
Honestly a large part of why I was so down on Green Book all the way back down towards the beginning of this list is because it feels like this movie does everything that movie did but 100 times better. The main character is torn between her black home culture and ‘acting white’ in her preppy high school? This movie goes into the reasons why she feels she has to act this way and both the positives and negatives that come from that. There’s a supportive white character involved? This movie treats him as a good guy but also points out that there are certain things he’s just not going to get about being black (plus it doesn’t make him the lead or have him try to teach famed black icon Doc Shirley how to be black by eating fried chicken (Sorry, I’m still not over that.)) Even the cop shooting angle it handles with some nuance. The main character’s Uncle is a cop and there’s a great little scene between the two debating the reasons why the officer did what he did and whether or not it justified his actions. The film is steeped in black culture and identity and works all the better for it.
It also helps that the characters are really likeable. Not just Amanda Stenberg, who gives a magnificent performance as the clearly traumatised Starr, but her family and her friends and the world around her feels like an actual world rather than just a backdrop. It’s the sort of movie that made me want to see more of the characters, even knowing that the plot was more or less wrapped up. And there are very few movies that actually do that to me.
In conclusion, out of all the movies that dealt with race this year, this was easily my favourite. It juggles complex and meaningful subjects deftly while still remaining likeable and easy to watch, with great performances and great characters to anchor it all down with. It’s a shame this didn’t get more of a recognition with the Oscars because it definitely deserves it.
(Also, I’m fairly certain at this point that everyone should be able to guess what the top two are going to be, considering my well known love of certain genres/franchises. But which way round will they place? Let’s find out…)