Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Octavia Spencer. Written by J.C. Lee and Julius Onah. Directed by Onah. Opens Friday on the Varsity. 109 minutes. 14A

The thriller Luce, probably the most talked-about movies at this 12 months’s Sundance Movie Competition, has a title which means “mild,” a reality of no small irony.

The comforting highlight of readability is to not be discovered on this tightly plotted drama by Nigerian-born author/director Julius Onah (The Cloverfield Paradox), primarily based on a stage play by co-screenwriter J.C. Lee, which challenges race, class and gender perceptions among the many woke and non-woke alike.

Luce can also be the title of the movie’s protagonist, a Virginia highschool pupil performed in a breakout efficiency by Kelvin Harrison Jr. (It Comes at Evening). He’s a former little one soldier from war-ravaged Eritrea, adopted by socially aware couple Amy and Peter (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth).

By love and remedy, they’ve raised Luce to be a mannequin American: prime pupil, basketball workforce captain, valedictorian. The college’s principal jokes about eager to clone him, for example of African-American achievement whom different college students can look as much as — though some resent him. One calls Luce “Obama” throughout a heated trade; it’s not meant as a praise.

Easygoing Luce is uneasy about being handled as a logo. His discomfort — and that of the viewer’s — grows when his historical past instructor (Octavia Spencer) begins to suspect Luce of plotting violence. Her “proof” is an essay he wrote within the voice of Marxist revolutionary Frantz Fanon and likewise a bag of unlawful fireworks she discovered whereas snooping by means of the teenager’s locker.

As with many movies at Sundance 2019, Luce calls into query the pat statements and rushed judgments that so typically go for social discourse within the fashionable world. Is the sunshine we see guiding the trail forward or indicating a prepare dashing towards us?


    The balm of absolute reality could also be lacking in Luce, however this makes for arresting and considerate viewing nonetheless.

    Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic primarily based in Toronto. Observe him on Twitter: @peterhowellfilm

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