Who’s the real monster-the teacher or the student? Only “Luce” knows.
What a mind-boggling experience for me! “Luce,” The third film from writer/director Julius Onah (“The Girl Is in Trouble,” “The Cloverfield Paradox”) allows the characters to share their evidence and believes about one particular character, who happens to be a student from another country. The audience is jonesing to know who the true psychopath is, and we’re given pacing and ambition to see the story unfold.
We meet Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), the gifted adoptive son of Peter (Tim Roth) and Amy Edgar (Naomi Watts), who has grown a sense of liberty, after spending a decade in his home country of Eritrea. His original name was so difficult to pronounce, and that’s why he’s renamed Luce. He’s in the middle of writing his debate paper, and his hard work at school has made everyone appreciate him.
Well, almost everyone. His history teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer) begins to feel threatened by his current essay, which involves hurting people in order to prove a point, and finds a paper bag filled with illegal fireworks in his locker. His excuse is that his friends share his locker, and he admits to Wilson his favorite holiday being Independence Day. Because of the freedom and fireworks.
This makes the parents concerned about where this is going, and so, the mother has to go snooping around in order to know who her son really is. Is he a saint or a monster? Even Luce gets hurt by the accusations aimed against him.
There are also supporting characters in this movie, who have big impacts on the main characters. Luce had a girlfriend named Stephanie (Andrea Bang), who was sexually assaulted during a game called “Santa Claus,” his other friend DeShaun (Brian Bradley, better known as Astro) got blamed for weed in his locker, and Ms. Wilson has a mentally unstable sister Rosemary (Marsha Stephanie Blake).
Out of the three characters, two of them have memorable scenes. Stephanie explains to Amy her situation, and the tension between the two is provocative. And another would be Rosemary, who welcomes herself to the high school, accuses her sister of hating her for her disability, and stripping down naked, until the police subdue her.
“Luce” uses liberty, discrimination, and accusations to express the characters and the different worlds they come from. The student has been through so much that be comes resilient, and the teacher becomes so concerned that she becomes fearful of him. It all comes down to parent-teacher conferences, and personal conversations.
It left me feeling puzzled at time, based on the facts and evidence the story introduces, but the plot keeps going once we’re introduced to these characters-all well-acted by Watts, Spencer, Harrison, Jr. Bang, Bradley, Blake, and Roth. There are emotional arguments between the teacher and family; unpredictable moments like Luce’s classroom getting attacked by fireworks and Ms Wilson’s sister’s outburst; and the reality of it all is pulsating. Julius Onah keeps everyone in tact.