Luce Parent Guide
A complex tightly-written film that will raise questions in the minds of adult viewers. This film contains too much sexual content and profanity for teen viewers.
Parent Movie Review
Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) grew up in Eritrea, was forced to fight as a child soldier, and faced a violent, hopeless future. However, when he was adopted by Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth), they brought him to the United States and arranged for him to get the help he needed to recover from his past trauma. All of Luce’s progress seems to crumble, though, when a teacher (Octavia Spencer) raises concerns over violent comments in a term paper and some illegal fireworks she found in his locker. Suddenly, Luce is up to his neck in trouble, including allegations of threatening teachers, acts of vandalism, and even rumors of rape.
This film is nuanced and complex - character motivations are often not explicit, and shift over time. It’s difficult to parse out who you want to cheer for in the whole mess, as sooner or later every character is drawn into the web of lies and half-truths which spreads around Luce. That may sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t: the film just requires you to think for the entire runtime.
Luce and his parents have a fascinating dynamic, which gradually changes over the course of the movie; so gradually you don’t necessarily notice all the turns. This is only possible with excellent writing and talented actors: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Naomi Watts, and Tim Roth all shine in this world of shifting relationships. Octavia Spencer, meanwhile, holds down the other end of the film - the dangerous ambiguity around which characters should be trusted and which are pursuing darker ends.
Luce has a significant number of content issues, which make it unsuitable for underage viewing. Teenage sex and drug use are probably the top of that pyramid for most people, but the frequent profanity and brief adult nudity aren’t going to win any parents over either. None of the sex or drug use are glamorized or encouraged, and in fact, most are subtly discouraged.
But adult viewers with a taste for complexity and real-life writing might want to give this production a look. Despite the content concerns (and in some cases, because of them) Luce presents a highly compelling picture of a young man who, on the surface, has every advantage, but struggles with the expectations he feels closing around him. The story is raw and vulnerable in a way that you don’t often see in Hollywood. It also has expectations that the audience will be thoughtful, critical, and attentive, so this isn’t the film for you if you’re looking for a fun summer popcorn movie.Directed by Julius Onah. Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., Octavia Spencer, and Naomi Watts.. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release August 23, 2019. Updated August 24, 2019
Watch the trailer for Luce
Rating & Content Info
Why is Luce rated R? Luce is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout, sexual content, nudity and some drug use.
Violence: Two people engage in some pushing and shoving. A naked woman is tasered by the police. There are discussions of violence in war. A desk is set on fire, and the fire spreads.
Sexual Content: There two sex scenes, one depicting married adults (which includes brief female toplessness) and another depicting teenagers, which includes them removing their shirts.. There are references to and descriptions of sexual assault against teenagers. An adult woman is shown completely naked in a thoroughly non-sexual context. There is mention of a girl being “passed around” in a sexual context.
Profanity: There are approximately 70 uses of profanity in this film, primarily sexual and scatological swear words. Mild profanities are used infrequently, as well as terms of deity. Several racial slurs are used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults are shown drinking alcohol, and one is depicted as drunk at several points. Teenagers are shown smoking marijuana and there are references to teen drinking.
Page last updated August 24, 2019
Luce Parents' Guide
Luce feels that, given his background and the advantages he has had in the USA, he only has two options: to be perfect or to be a monster. How can you avoid giving children such binary feelings about expectations?
Amy struggles to separate her love and support for her son from her acceptance of his behavior- what would you have done in her position? What do you think she should have done?
Thousands of children are forced to become soldiers in countries across the world, and many suffer lasting trauma. Are you interested in helping children who have been through this?
Human Rights Watch: Facts about child soldiers
Unicef: Children as Soldiers
Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative: Preventing the use of child soldiers
Loved this movie? Try these books…
To better understand the viewpoint of Franz Fanon (the subject of Luce’s essay), his novel Black Skin, White Masks is a good place to start.
Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozie Aidiche is a story about the Biafran civil war, set in Nigeria in the 60s. It also deals with child soldiers, and the difficulties inherent in dealing with trauma and sexual assault.
Related home video titles:
The Good Lie follows three refugees from Sudan as they resettle in the USA. But they never forget their friend, who was captured and forced to fight.
Adults who enjoy psychological thrillers can watch Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Teen viewers can join in and watch Rear Window, Starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, this classic film shows a man laden with suspicion and unsure who to trust as he watches his neighbors from his apartment.
Get Out shows a young black man meeting his white girlfriend’s family, which takes a turn for the horrific.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco deals with the strange world of familial history and expectations, the difficulties of friendship, and the lunacy of the real estate market.If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from the James Baldwin novel of the same name, follows two African-American families struggling with the American justice system in the mid-70s.