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Parents' Guide to


By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Smart, mature drama about race, privilege, and expectations.

Movie R 2019 109 minutes
Luce Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 16+

Luce attempts to grapple with A LOT of complex issues and succeeds in bringing us into the conversation

A gripping film that is impeccably acted and tone perfect. This film explores complex issues around race, adoption, white savior, expectation, being a "credit to your race", student athletics, teenage sex, passive aggressive manipulations, and child violence. A deep psychological look at when the American Dream comes up against civil war trauma on children. How can you heal? How do you move forward? Can you forget your past? Awards all around! Top marks.
age 18+

Luce - Leaves Too Many Questions

Stylishly produced and very well acted, with the makings of ‘some’ good writing – yet somehow Luce trips over its own cleverness. There are so many ‘statements’ on life lessons, history (both modern and past) political correctness, complex relationship issues and just about anything else that could be crammed into its running time. So much so, that it seems writers/producers/director, JC Lee and Julius Onah appeared to have a little difficulty tying it all together, failing to convey a satisfactory understanding of all the issues. The situations in question are all way too serious to gloss over, deserving a far more solid resolution to justify the disturbing end results. Naomi Watts gives her usual sterling performance as Luce’s mother and there’s excellent support from all those around her. The Music score, while interesting, at times tends to come across as overbearing. Some will say they understood all the convoluted characters and their various activities but if questioned, will probably find they missed an important thread or two. It’s also doubtful a teacher would use four-letter words when talking to a parent about their son! Some of the content is interesting, but let down by a somewhat overly open ending - that has obviously left many of its audience unsatisfied. Four Letter words throughout.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (3 ):

Based on a play by J.C. Lee, this drama is (unsurprisingly) talky and static, but it also tackles complex issues of race, privilege, and expectations in a deliberately inconclusive, provocative way. Co-written by Lee and director Julius Onah, Luce has a clean, unexceptional look, full of evenly lit interiors, and it contains a great deal of awkward expositional dialogue that explains the hard road it took for Luce and his parents to arrive where they are. But it gets power from what it doesn't show. The contraband fireworks and drugs become like a sleight-of-hand trick when it's revealed that Luce and his teammates share lockers, and the contents of any locker could belong to any of them.

In another example, Stephanie's ordeal at the party isn't seen, only described, from her own hazy point of view; Luce himself could have been one of her tormentors, or her rescuer, and the true answer is never known. Ms. Wilson is perhaps the most interesting character -- piloted by another masterful Spencer performance -- able to see a little more clearly than some, but not as clearly as others. Ultimately, the movie asks questions about how we view others, what we expect from them, and how we react when those expectations aren't met. Despite its flaws, Luce is a strong, effective, and useful movie.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: August 2, 2019
  • On DVD or streaming: October 29, 2019
  • Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr , Naomi Watts , Tim Roth , Octavia Spencer
  • Director: Julius Onah
  • Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors
  • Studio: Neon
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 109 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: language throughout, sexual content, nudity and some drug use
  • Last updated: January 29, 2023

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