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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2019 2 months ago

'Luce' is a thought-provoking and tangled tale of deceptions and ambiguities

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All hell breaks loose in director Julius Onah's enticing psychological thriller.

"Luce" is a riveting, intellectual thriller that sheds light on the underlying fear that has permeated our society and divided a nation. And though it enlightens, it also leaves us scratching our heads.

At age seven, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) was adopted by Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter Edgar (Tim Roth). But it wasn't your run-of-the-mill adoption. Luce was serving as a child soldier in war-torn Eritrea. Now, 10 years later, he has become an all-American, straight-A student and beloved son.

 

When Luce writes an essay on how violence can be "a cleansing force," his teacher, Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer), becomes so concerned that she secretly searches his locker. Upon discovering highly dangerous, illegal fireworks in it, she's overwhelmingly shocked. Known for being tough on African-American students, Ms. Wilson confronts Luce's parents and all hell breaks loose (pun intended).

Director Julius Onah ("The Cloverfield Paradox") wades into very murky waters in this tangled tale of deceptions and ambiguities. His approach to deconstructing stereotypes is not at all subtle. He plants a powerful seed of doubt as to who Luce really is. In doing so, Amy must confront devastating revelations about her golden boy and deal with them cautiously. Peter, on the other hand, struggles internally, almost seeming to hand the reins over to Amy.

But it's the dynamic between Luce and Ms. Wilson that takes center stage. His cucumber-cool exterior belies what may be a ticking time-bomb beneath the surface. Although Ms. Wilson is so utterly confrontational with her holier-than-thou persona, one questions her motives. Bottom line — all four of these characters are seriously flawed.     

Toward the end of this thought-provoking film, Luce and Ms. Wilson face off in a brilliantly scripted scene (Oscar stuff). It's gritty, provocative and contemplative. As we lean toward being judgmental of the characters in "Luce," suddenly we realize that they are us. And it's not a comfortable conclusion.

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