The truth has many faces, at least in LUCE, the new drama from director Julius Onah, adapted from the acclaimed play by JC Lee. The story follows the titular character (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a former child solider who becomes an all-star high school student and athlete — a poster boy for the new American Dream. That is, until one paper, in which he advocates political violence, challenges everyone’s view of him, from his teacher (Octavia Spencer) to his adoptive parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth).
For the duration of the film, LUCE pivots around a single, albeit multilayered, question: Who is this kid really? And Onah puts the onus on the audience to determine the answer. Is Luce the idealized image of his well-intentioned parents? Is he the dangerous, troubled teen his concerned teacher makes him out to be? … Is he both? And more importantly, does he have a choice?
LUCE, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2019, explores topics too complex to dissect in a single blog article or conversation, an intentional effort on behalf of Lee and Onah. In an interview with the Sundance Institute, Onah said:
“We were coming from a perspective of wanting to ask questions about identity and about a lot of, you know, the social and political issues that are really at the forefront of the culture right now. We had a shared target of wanting it to be a movie that leaves people with more questions than answers and ask them to think about how they participate in all the elements of modern American life when it comes to so many issues around identify and class and race and gender and sexuality.”
Shot in long takes, LUCE gives the audience plenty of space to dive deep into the story and characters, allowing them to take in and maybe even develop an understanding of the various viewpoints and motives. Form your own opinion when LUCE reaches an AMC theatre near you starting August 2.