To observe the experiences and vicariously feel the pressures placed on Starr as she attempts (to use Spike Lee’s words) to “Do the Right Thing” is revelatory, or should be, to anyone who hasn’t been in her shoes.

It’s one thing to theorize. It’s another thing to experience.

“The Hate U Give” shows the difference.

In a way, the film could be about any teenager struggling to fit in. Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) feels she can’t be the same person in school as she is at home or in her neighborhood.

But this isn’t the usual teenage angst at play; it’s a matter of race.

Starr is black. She lives in Garden Heights, a drug-riddled, gang-ruled, economically depressed, mostly black section of the city. Her mother, Lisa (Regina Hall), and her father, reformed gang member Maverick (Russell Hornsby), determined to provide her with greater opportunities in life, send her to a private school where she’s surrounded by privileged white kids.

Serving as occasional narrator of the story, Starr explains how she feels pressure to maintain a certain image at school. Even though her white classmates use slang associated with the ’hood because they think it makes them cool (it has the opposite effect), Starr refuses to speak that way at school. She doesn’t want to be thought of as a stereotype; she wants to be accepted for herself. But as she struggles to fit into both worlds, she wrestles with establishing just who she really is.

Like any teen. Except here it’s a matter of race.

That’s just one layer of this story. Starr witnesses a police shooting, and she’s stuck in the middle again. What’s the right thing to do: to speak out about what happened, or keep it to herself? There are strong forces pushing for both options. Her life can be at stake.

“We live in a complicated world, Starr,” her uncle (Common), a cop, tells her. And almost everything in “The Hate U Give” backs this up. It probably shouldn’t be so complicated, but in a world where the slogan #BlackLivesMatter is necessary, it is.

Seeing everything that unfolds in “The Hate U Give” through Starr’s perspective helps. It’s one thing to theorize. It’s another thing to experience. And to observe the experiences and vicariously feel the pressures placed on Starr as she attempts (to use Spike Lee’s words) to “Do the Right Thing” is revelatory, or should be, to anyone who hasn’t been in her shoes.

We see Maverick train her and her younger brother at a young age how to act when their car is pulled over by the police. Not if. When. “Keep your hands where they can see them,” Maverick says. It’s a matter of survival. It has nothing to do with pride.

“Being black is an honor,” the father says, schooling his children on the Black Panther’s 10-point program.

“Know your rights,” he says. “Know your worth, understand?”

There are times – not in this scene, but in others – where the speeches border on preachy and the story feels stretched out. But these are minor quibbles when it comes to a movie with this kind of power, importance and relevance.

And if this weren’t enough (it is), there are the strong performances, by Hornsby, Hall, Common, Anthony Mackie (as a gang leader), Algee Smith (as Starr’s dear friend since childhood) and, especially, the phenomenal Amandla Stenberg.

Stenberg, who turns 20 on Tuesday, manages to create in Starr a character who is “typical” in how genuine and relatable she seems (even just the way she’ll break into a giggle) and yet projects a level of sincerity, courage and heart that makes her extraordinary. It’s a star-making performance in an unforgettable film.