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The gripping, provocative psychodrama is currently in theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Metacritic score: 73

A decade ago, Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) adopted a young boy from Eritrea named Luce (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.). Now he’s a star athlete and model student in his high school, on the verge of graduation and a bright future. But strange things suddenly start happening at the school, and Luce begins clashing with his teacher, Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer). She is determined to make sure he doesn’t fritter away his potential, but Luce resents how she holds him up as a good example, especially to the school’s other black students.

Based on an off-Broadway play by J.C. Lee, Luce, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, is the story of complicated people navigating issues involving race, privilege, adoption, and the conceptions we form about others, whether or not they deserve it. It’s a tense, sometimes incendiary movie that constantly challenges its audience. You never know who has the upper hand in any conversation, or who is telling the truth. And it’s the sort of film that will make you examine your own assumptions about who we tend to presume are the “good kids.”

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