Luce is a really interesting piece. Luce (Kevin Harrison Jr) is a High School superstar. He gets great grades, gives speeches to his school, and is captain of the track team as their star 200m runner.
But he was once a child soldier in Eritrea, and has been adopted two middle class white parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth), who’ve spent a long time trying to eradicate him of the horrors of his previous life.
At school his history teacher (Octavia Spencer) is, for some reason, a bit suspicious of Luce. It’s not entirely clear why, when the rest of the school finds him outstanding. We begin to learn about something that happened at a party involving Luce’s then girlfriend (Andrea Bang).
Luce is also acutely aware that his friend DeShaun (Brian Bradley) has been almost abandoned by the school as he’s slipped into a world of drugs and crime, having once had an athletic career ahead of him.
But this is really a chamber piece adapted by director Julius Onah and writer JC Lee from a play by JC Lee. And in truth, it always feels like a play. Is Luce an all-star student that he seems, or is there a dark side to him? He’s smart enough that he could be playing other people. Indeed, he definitely is at times.
You’re massively conflicted.
The music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury is also urgent and drives the narrative on, the pair having mostly worked on science fiction films like Ex Machina and Annihilation previously.
This is a very smart film, with a fantastic leading performance from Harrison, but it needed to move away a little from its roots on the stage a bit more than it did.