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Soundtrack review: The hate U give (Dustin O’Halloran – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The hate U give (Dustin O’Halloran – 2018)

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“The Hate U Give” is a 2018 American drama film directed by George Tillman Jr. and written by Audrey Wells. It is based on Angie Thomas’ 2017 novel of same name. The film stars Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, and Anthony Mackie. Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a white police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what she believes may be right. Dustin O’Halloran wrote the score.

I’ve become a bit biased when it comes to Dustin O’Halloran scores; he’s in a special category of composers who almost always deliver scores that are very in tune with the way I feel and with which I instantly find a firm and personal point of connection. His piano musings, often laid back and quiet but powerful simply get to me and almost magically calm me down and hypnotise me into feeling good. This might be a story that involves hate and tribulations and prejudice but Dustin’s music, as always, doesn’t focus on that but on the light, on the good in the main characters. There is sadness in the music, there is something elegiac in the way the piano is played; the first two cues introduce us to the main character but either of them could very well be an end credits piece for a drama. As light as the music is, almost minimalistic, it carries a certain emotional weight which is poignant but not overwhelming.

The music can’t always provide shelter from the drama in the music and “Shots” has the music descend into an almost industrial discomfort. The strings are uncertain and tortured before being melodic. The impact of cues like this one or “Interrogation” is that of coming back to the real life after an oblivious vacation. Dustin O’Halloran delivers drama and angst with the same ease and minimalist craft with which he delivers hope and love. The piano is still the main character only for these turbulent passages it’s played in a way that makes me think of horror movies.

“The hate U give” shows that Dustin O’Halloran’s brand of minimalism can work just as well on a dramatic movie as it does on a romantic one. The music is sad, almost cautionary and the electronic motifs evoke a permanent state of tension. When I see this composer’s name I usually pine for a warm and melodic composition but he never fails me even when his music is not as comfortable to listen to.

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Highlights:
The Cycle
Starr’s Theme
Kahlil
The Funeral

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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