Based on a play by JC Lee, Luce, directed by Julius Onah, may be a bit stagey, but strong central performances and a gripping narrative offset those aspects of the film.
Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr) is a black teenager, whose adoptive parents Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth) brought him to America ten years previously, saving him from a traumatised life in a war zone. Luce is a model student greatly admired by all, but when a homework assignment with violent political undertones unsettles his history teacher Mrs Wilson (Octavia Spencer), a feud begins between Mrs Wilson, Luce, and his parents. Mistrust and suspicion develop, and Luce’s apparently immaculate life is called into question. Is he quite the model student he appears?
Alongside the clear stage play origins, the most serious flaw in the film is that the noir-ish twists and turns sit awkwardly alongside the wider discussions of racial politics and what it means to be black in America. However this is still overall a good film, with some clever rug-pulling, provocative moments, and ambiguity. For those who appreciate such things, warnings are appropriate for strong language, sex and sexual abuse themes, and nudity.