Let's face it: middle aged white guy. Not the target audience for this movie. My judgment on the movie is worth every bit as much as my status implies.
Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is 16 years old, and lives in two worlds: the crime-ridden black neighbourhood where she lives, and the upscale mostly white (private?) school where she goes to class. Her parents put her and her two brothers there after her childhood friend was gunned down, collateral damage in a gang hit when she was ten. Initially I wasn't sure I was going to like the movie: early on Starr is at a party, and I wasn't really understanding everything they said even with the subs on and I wasn't always getting the humour. But then her friend Khalil drove her home from the party, and a traffic stop turns into a shooting when Khalil gets a hairbrush out of the car and the cop assumes it's a gun and kills him. The story becomes national news, and while Starr's identity is initially hidden, she finds herself in the middle of a media and judicial circus of horrifying proportions.
I'd be hard pressed to pick a topic to say "the movie is about ..." because it's absolutely about finding your voice, but it's also very much about institutionalized racism. Starr's uncle Carlos is a cop, and listening to him trying to explain how complicated traffic stops are is agonizing, and the best (and most depressing) pitch for institutionalized racism that I've ever heard. What he was trying not to say, but was forced to admit anyway, was you handle it differently depending on the colour of the driver and the neighbourhood you're in.
Stenberg was outstanding, and should have got an award for this. The portrait of her entire family was pretty much pitch perfect: the love and strength, the frustration and terror. Really, really good.