Critics say HBO’s ‘Between the World and Me’ is a must-watch

The adaptation of Coates's bestseller is streaming on HBO Max

“Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 bestseller, is a powerful memoir written in the form of a letter to the author’s 15-year-old teenage son, and HBO’s adaptation of the book premiered last night.

The Pulitzer-nominated book was initially adapted and staged by the Apollo Theater in 2018, and now it is HBO’s latest streaming offering. The film features a spoken word performance that is a combination of film and theater, according to NBC.

Read More: Ta-Nehisi Coates to guest edit Vanity Fair September issue

Directed by Kamilah Forbes, the HBO special incorporates news footage, both past and current: Muhammad Ali speaking about police abusing African American drivers, Chadwick Boseman’s commencement speech at Howard University, and Breonna Taylor’s mother in an audio clip, discussing how she learned of her daughter’s death.

Although restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic presented their share of problems in the production of the HBO special, Forbes chose to take the show on the road instead of staging it in a theater. She filmed the actors in numerous locations, their homes, their cars, their backyards, and they shout lines from the streets of Baltimore and the campus of Howard University.

“I’m telling you this in your fifteenth year,” the narrative begins, and the poignant essays are delivered by a who’s who ensemble of Black celebrities, including: Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Joe Morton, Angela Davis, Wendell Pierce, Phylicia Rashad, Yara Shahidi, Oprah Winfrey and more.

Read More: Apollo unveils new commissions, including projects by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates speaks of the social injustice of the Black experience and tells his child, “You do not have the privilege of living in ignorance.” Connecting the past to the present, Coates recounts his experiences growing up amid racism and violence in West Baltimore, he describes the joy of finding love at Howard University, and he also encourages his son to find strength in his connection to the Black community.

“The system makes your body breakable,” Coates writes to his son, adding, “This is your country, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

Many on social media raved about the premiere saying it was a great adaptation.

“Between the World and Me” is now streaming on HBO Max.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!