SOME films feel like they could pretty much be made any time. The Hate U Give is no such film. It is a powerful and essential film for today, fuelled with passion and anger but also courage and the sincere hope to see things change for the good and for always.

Based on the urgent 2017 best-selling novel by Angie Thomas, the story focuses on Starr (Amandla Stenberg), a black teenager who has become an expert at morphing between personas: one for her home life in her close-knit neighbourhood where she lives with her family; one for her elite, mostly white prep school where she fears she won’t be accepted if she acts “too ghetto”.

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When tragedy strikes close to home one night after a party, Starr finds herself in the middle of a conflict at once intimate and external, revolving around her as she becomes the subject of community and news-wide attention.

Though perhaps a little on the nose at times, there’s nevertheless something genuine and heartfelt about The Hate U Give in both its storytelling and the difficult topics and worthy messages it sends out about race relations in modern America, particularly police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Unlike thematically similar films like Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit and Spike Lee’s BlackKklansman, this filters events through a teen movie prism. It’s therefore very emotive and earnest. But that doesn’t mean it’s not grown up or worthy of proper attention. It manages the difficult balance of not feeling like a trite after-school special while at the same time making you pay attention to what it has to say.

It’s grounded by some excellent performances and is a particularly great showcase for emerging star Stenberg. After films like The Darkest Minds and Everything, Everything that were clearly unworthy of her talents, she has found something that truly lets her shine as she embraces a difficult role with passion and nuance.

It’s stylishly directed by George Tillman Jr (Notorious, Men of Honor) from an astutely adapted script by Audrey Wells (who sadly passed away just this month) to give not only the narrative plenty of energy but also the portrayal of Starr’s family life an authenticity.

Scenes in which her caring but tough former gang member father Mav (Russell Hornsby),

counter-balanced by the reticence of concerned mother Lisa (Regina Hall), gets Starr and her siblings to promise they’ll keep their hands in plain sight if they’re stopped by police have a ring of pained truth. It’s these kinds of touches that encapsulate the film’s power to keep things personal while also having something vital to say.