White Fear, Black Grief, and the Horrors of Being Put in a Box: A Conversation with “Luce” Filmmaker Julius Onah and Actor Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Eileen G'Sell. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

Early on in Luce, a late summer psychodrama, American history teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer) requests to speak with Amy Edgar (Naomi Watts), the adopted mother of Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a high school honor student whose honor would seem to be under sudden suspicion. “Given Luce’s background, you and Peter must have faced quite a few challenges,” says Harriet from her classroom desk, referring to the young man’s childhood spent in embroiled Eritrea. To this, Amy responds, “I mean you don’t pull a kid out of a warzone and have him turn out like Luce without a lot of help.” Harriet replies with a direct gaze and sharp drop in tone: “Which is why this is going to be difficult.” “Difficult?” blinks Amy, her china blue eyes radiating cluelessness.

In a way, this exchange encapsulates the crux of what is undoubtedly — and necessarily —one of the summer’s most difficult films, perhaps especially for white, progressive-minded viewers.

Read the full piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Leave a Comment

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.