October 25, 2018 – The people who ought to see this movie probably won't, the people who think racism is a thing of the past, that “Black Lives Matter” is a racist slogan and that black people have too many advantages in society (like affirmative action). That's the myth. The reality, is that police kill black men with impunity in many kinds of encounters where white men would be perfectly safe. This movie is about one of those situations, and what it is like to live under that threat.
A father, Maverick Carter (Russell Hornsby of “Fences”) gives “the talk” to his children, including his daughter, Starr (Amandla Stenberg of “Everything, Everything”). He tells them how to behave when the police confront them, and they will definitely be confronted by police with guns and nervous trigger fingers. Put you hands on the dashboard. Follow instructions. Remain calm. Don't make any sudden moves. Don't talk back, regardless of how unfairly you think you are being treated.
A fight breaks out at a party, and Starr's old friend, Khalil (Algee Smith of “Detroit”) gives her a ride home. On the way, a policeman pulls Khalil over for a lane violation. Despite Starr's pleas, Khalil reaches into the car to grab a hairbrush and is shot to death by the policeman, who assumes the brush is a gun. Khalil's occupation, drug dealer, works against him in the investigation which follows, and the policeman is exonerated.
Starr is conflicted by this situation. She liked Khalil, but if she stands up for him, she will be opposed by her white friends. She is also warned not to testify before the grand jury by Khalil's boss, local drug lord King (Anthony Mackie of recent “Captain America” and “Avengers” movies). Further complicating matters is the fact that Starr's father also once worked for King. Starr's mother, Lisa (Regina Hall of “Road Trip”) is strongly against Starr getting involved in efforts to get justice for Khalil.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Starr is living in two worlds. She acts white in the mostly white Catholic school where most of her friends, and her boyfriend, are white. She is a different person on the weekends and at home, where she is free to be herself. Despite all the opposition, Starr decides to testify before the grand jury investigating the shooting, and to stand up for Khalil. She is ostracized at school and threatened by King's gang for her stand.
I had a very strong emotional reaction to this movie, which is as moving as anything I've seen this year. It packs a very strong emotional punch, by putting the viewer into a world which is way outside the comfort zone of most white people. It is one thing to intellectually grasp the facts of life for people who live under the constant threat of violence from gangs, police, or federal agents, but it is quite another to enter that world in a film like this.
Last year, the Horror film “Get Out” was lavishly praised for presenting a non-white view of the world, but to me, this film accomplishes that even more effectively because it is reality-based, not science fiction. You can't laugh this off. You can't dismiss it as being impossible, because it is about something that happens all the time. It has been happening for decades. It is still happening. This is exactly the kind of incident that led to the founding of the Black Panthers in 1966, and the ideals of the Black Panthers are referenced often in this film.
The actors in this film all give powerful performances. Kudos to director George Tillman Jr. (“Men of Honor”) and writer Audrey Wells (“Under the Tuscan Sun”) for making such a powerful film (based on the novel by Angie Thomas) which sets forth the issue of “Black Lives Matter” so vividly. This is one of the best films of 2018. It rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.