Amandla Stenberg’s performance catches the eye in a serious, striking drama for the Black Lives Matter era.
The scourge of police shootings in the US shows no signs of stopping, but the Black Lives Matter campaign has at least flagged up the problem. A crop of films has too, including the recent ‘Blindspotting’, but the one best placed to raise awareness is this adaptation of a bestselling young adult novel, driven by a fierce performance from ‘The Hunger Games’ breakout star Amandla Stenberg.
Stenberg plays Starr Carter, a girl torn between two worlds: the tough, Compton-like neighbourhood where she lives and her chichi private school. She carefully keeps the two separate, until she witnesses the police shooting of a childhood friend and is forced to take a stand. Speaking out risks reprisals against her family and friends, as well as gang violence – courtesy of the drug kingpin (Anthony Mackie) who has publicly laid claim to the victim to keep her body out of the police’s clutches – and it will upend her life at school. Staying silent offers no guarantee of safety either. Or of change.
It’s an awful dilemma for anyone, let alone a teenager, and while Starr has the support of loving parents she must ultimately decide on her own. It’s weighing cause and consequence that the film excels at. Director George Tillman Jr (‘The Longest Ride’) has often been saddled with weightless popcorn fare, but he leaps on the chance to make something with purpose. The result is a little long and occasionally unsubtle, but it’s an undeniable howl for justice and accountability.
Cast and crew