Indie Gems: Luce

Don't put him in a box.

Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) was adopted from war torn Eritrea as a child by the affluent family Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter. (Tim Roth) They've worked hard to make sure he reaches his full potential, and so far, they've succeeded. Luce is a kind boy, he's good in school and in sports, but when he writes a troubling essay in Mrs. Wilson's (Octavia Spence) class, Amy in particular is forced to consider the idea that maybe he isn't perfect.

Luce makes a comment about the harmful nature of tokenism and stereotypes early in the film. Why is it okay that the school makes it clear how much they want Luce, a boy with a tragic past to succeed and not another black student who gets kicked off the track team for weed in his locker and loses his only shot of college because of it? Why does Mrs. Wilson project onto some students and not the others? Why can't Amy see any grey area at all in her son's life? These are all valid questions and they are what make Luce such an interesting watch. 

Harrison puts on a very sincere facade. He does want to succeed, he's capable of shitty things, but he's aware how much he is being projected on. One of his classmates, Stephanie (Andrea Bang) has a powerful scene where she recounts a sexual assault at a party and it's one of the best acted moments I've seen this year. Naomi Watts is also very good, even though Amy's decisions were frustrating. 

I like the conversation this film brings to the table and I'm surprised it's not being talked about more. It never came to a theater near me, so I'm happy I got to watch it on DVD now.

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "I just don't believe you, Amy." - Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.)


  1. Whoa, I've never heard of this, but it sounds like something I would really, really enjoy.

    (am I crazy or is this somewhat reminiscent of that Kindergarten teacher movie???)

    I'd ask why isn't Naomi Watts in more things, but she's probably in good movies, and I don't watch those.

    1. I feel like all of Naomi Watts' movies have been getting zero press for the past few years. I remember this from Sundance, then it disappeared, now it's back.

      This teacher makes some mistakes but she doesn't quite venture into The Kindergarten Teacher area.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. One of my favorites this year. The script is just remarkable, walking a fine line with the characters and the topics at hand. And Kelvin Harrison, Jr. is freaking FANTASTIC as Luce. Octavia Spencer is better than she's ever been and I REALLY hope she gets an Oscar nom (even though it's not going to happen).

    When Naomi Watts SAID THAT in the scene in the principal's office, I have not heard an audience collectively gasp so loud.

    1. I can imagine because I gawked at my TV when she said it too. It's just unreal. I'm glad the Spirit Awards gave it some love. Harrison Jr is amazing, I wish he could take this all the way to the Oscars.


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