Welcome to the 2019 CIRCUIT CONSIDERATIONS series. Highlighting the very best in film, acting, and technical achievements for the past 12 months that awards voters may need help remembering. Each day a different writer will make their plea for a specific film in a respective category. If you miss one, click the tag “Circuit Considerations 2019,” and if you have some suggestions, include them in the comments below!
Octavia Spencer has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress three times, including a win on her first nomination for “The Help.” She also earned nominations for “Hidden Figures” and “The Shape of Water.” She deserves to add to her roster for her turn in “Luce,” a provocative social thriller which features Spencer working at the height of her power.
Spencer plays Harriet Wilson, a dedicated high school teacher who manages to balance the best intentions of her students and the school on a day-to-day basis. She becomes alarmed with star student Luce’s (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) paper and feels she needs to bring it to the attention of his parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth). They love their son and are fiercely protective and become increasingly suspicious of Ms. Wilson’s motives.
The complex beauty of “Luce” is how your allegiances with the characters shift from scene-to-scene. Is Ms. Wilson the hero or the villain? Which is Luce? Spencer finds layers within Ms. Wilson, allowing us to side with her and think she might be overreacting and it’s up to the audience to determine if it’s justified. When Ms. Wilson first meets with Luce’s mom, it seems to be a normal meeting between a teacher and a parent. She has concerns and it’s her job to address them. By the film’s mid-section, Ms. Wilson has staged a bit of a coup, organizing a meeting with Luce and his parents and the school’s principal. “Luce” is about asking questions and whether we should trust Ms. Wilson becomes a prevalent one. Spencer’s performance is not interested in giving any easy answers.
Spencer’s performance is a classic supporting turn. She does not compete for attention in any of her scenes. Her character has a personal storyline but Spencer remains a supporting player in Luce’s life. She jump starts the film’s actions, which affects the title character as much as herself. Spencer runs the gamut of fierce and vulnerable. She has been nominated for Best Supporting Female at the Independent Spirit Awards and deserves another Oscar nomination for her career-best work in “Luce.”