The truth does indeed have many faces when it comes to Luce. Luce (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) has the face of a young teen who easily excels in everything he touches. He’s a star student, athlete and son. His parents, life and sheer existence appear to be perfection. Or, is it a mask for what lurks underneath the core surface of his psyche, a child soldier from a war torn country trying to assimilate in a world that will always have difficulties in accepting him for who he truly is.
The one person not fooled is Harriett (Octavia Spencer). For her, his perfection is just a little too good to be true, especially when she becomes a target for shenanigans believed to be carried out by Luce. Harriett is a woman from a certain generation who understand the pressure placed on a person of color to excel almost beyond their capabilities. Harriett, in her own quest for perfection, is hiding a secret in her sister Rosemary (exquisitely acted by Marsha Stephanie Blake) that ultimately becomes her undoing.
Then, there’s Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter Edgar (Tim Roth), who’re the perfect example of white privilege convinced they are doing the right thing giving someone ‘less fortunate’ a chance at a life that would very well have eluded him in his own country. Which begs the question are they doing it for him or to ease their own conscience?
Based on a play by J.C. Lee, Luce will disturb its audience well after the credits have rolled. There are so many issues being played out in the form of social acceptance and pressure, racism, entitlement and what face the truth takes. At the end of the day, we really are left with the question of what kind of pressure one encounters simply being human navigating in this world that moves at warp speed.
Kelvin Harrison, Jr. is exceptional in the title role. Every time he smiles and speaks as Luce a chill will roll down your spine. It’s very reminiscent of what a black teen version of The Bad Seed would look like with an intelligent edge and emotional discourse that permeates ones core for days after screening.
Octavia Spencer turns in another stellar performance and the showdown with her and Luce in her home is chilling. Naomi Watts’ performance is one that will redefine her career. She is a mother who makes the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love and honor of her son. Watts’ range and her final scene with Luce is absolutely riveting to watch.
Director Julius Onah and Kelvin Harrison, Jr. sat down and chatted with me about the trajectory of bringing this complex character and story to screen. Take a listen and in the meantime, check it out for yourself when LUCE hits theaters on August 2nd.