Julius Onah’s ‘Luce’ was adapted from a play by J.C. Lee, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The material is a powerful piece – one that makes you examine each of these characters closely – people are complex, you see, and people can be both be devil and angel. The film centers around Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr) who is a star student (Debate team, football hero, honors) who isn’t quite who he appears to be. Or does he? Complications abound whenhe submits an assignment to his teacher (Octavia Spencer) praising Frantz Fanon, who advocates using violence as necessary retribution. She has his locker searched and finds illegal fireworks there.
The setting is set up, and I have to admit it was a little on the manipulative side. And the conflicts are settled a little too simplistic – we see complexities in some characters, but honestly, not all. However, we get four fantastic performances here, and each one gives their character so much depth that everything just works. Harrison is a star in the making, and Spencer is magnificent as always (this could give her more nominations by the end of the year) but I was also quite pleased with both Naomi Watts and Tim Roth who play Luce’s adopted parents. In the end, their performances gave me more satisfaction than the piece that laid the groundwork.