Luce

Luce is an athlete and a star student, respected by faculty and friends. He’s soon to be valedictorian of his class. His success is particularly celebrated because Luce was adopted from Eritrea at the age of 10. He seems to have made a miraculous transition, overcome his tragic past.

So it’s a little jarring to his adoptive parents Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth) when his teacher calls them in with some news. Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer) shows them an essay he wrote supporting violence as a necessary means for freeing colonized people. Considering his background (child soldier?), Ms. Wilson thinks it’s prudent to search his locker, and presents them with her findings: illegal fireworks. With school security being such a high priority, Ms. Wilson knows that if anyone else were to find these, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) would be in hot water. She hopes his parents can intervene at home. However, Amy and Peter are loathe to bring it up, wanting to preserve the trusting relationship that was built with such difficulty. This seems like a relatively small blip in an otherwise unblemished record. But Luce finds the evidence and isn’t happy about the doubt or the suspicions of either his parents or his teacher.

Things escalate from there of course. Ms. Wilson’s accusations accumulate, and their repercussions amplify. Ms. Wilson is unrelenting but other authority figures are unwilling to compromise Luce’s stellar reputation. It’s her world against his, Luce’s parents trapped somewhere in between, wanting to protect their son but also wondering if he’s truly escaped his past. What is the right move? And to whom are they obligated?

The film is disorienting and Harrison’s performance is sufficiently nuanced to leave us guessing: is he being profiled or is he capable of some very exacting vengeance? The film plays with stereotypes and symbols in a way that’s deliciously tangled, addressing racism in a way that reflects its complexity and inextricability. Luce excels at sustained tension and menace, leaving the audience without its footing.

This chilling drama will have you weighing the costs of conformity, considering the limits of parental responsibility, subverting the notion of assimilation. Luce is uncomfortable but essential.

10 thoughts on “Luce

  1. tubularsock

    Now this sounds like a very complex entanglement of political thought, social norms, confused agendas and parental love.

    Interesting, indeed!

    As his instructor, Tubularsock would sit him down and discuss his essay with him. His premises of “supporting violence as a necessary means for freeing colonized people” sounds very sound to Tubularsock!

    His next assignment would be a study in the comparison between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and see what he comes up with there. The young man seems to have a great deal of potential in Tubularsock’s opinion.

    Tubularsock would also bring his parents into the mix centering around the assignment and his position as it stands.

    The fireworks discovery is just bullshit. A shotgun on the other hand maybe not!

    Ms.Wilson, seems from her position to be carrying some baggage of her own and may be doing a little projecting. But Tubularsock hasn’t seen the movie so Tubularsock is just is going on your description, Jay.

    However, with the economy as poor as it is now for working people if all else fails on the intellectual front Luce could become a gun runner and be the boss over his own business and make an honest living promoting what he believes in.

    Now how American is that!

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  2. Lorna Cunningham-Rushton

    Another review that adds to my admiration for you assholeswatchingmovies

    On Mon, 10 Feb 2020 at 15:43, ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES wrote:

    > Jay posted: ” Luce is an athlete and a star student, respected by faculty > and friends. He’s soon to be valedictorian of his class. His success is > particularly celebrated because Luce was adopted from Eritrea at the age of > 10. He seems to have made a miraculous transit” >

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  3. selizabryangmailcom

    This sounds excellent. The parents seem (gently) naive to believe a ten-year-old from those circumstances could simply forget or put those memories aside easily. But I haven’t seen the movie, so maybe he did… and everything’s just been overblown…..

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