a film by Enrico Casarosa

    Whenever you take a film with core themes on the neo-nuclear family, or themes on subjects like brotherhood or fraternity or the losing of innocence, these subjects can easily muddy a film or make it seem too on the nose. Few directors can take these themes that subconsciously connect us to our own childhoods in the way that masters of animation and storytelling like Miyazaki does. However, with Disney's newest film Luca, we see a wonderful breath of fresh air and a departure from Disney and Pixar's iconic style of animation, and instead, we are thrown into a vibrant, warm, and welcoming film that is a true depiction of our own childhood's come to life.












   Visually the film is a rush of colors reminiscent of the grandest oceans and gives us a stylistic crossover between the clay-mation stylings of Aardman Animations and the unyieldingly beautiful and realistic 3D animation that Pixar has continued to push over the years. It truly feels like a warm Mediterranean fantasy setting in some alternate world. Watching the film, the color palette reflects the emotions leading us through the vibrancy of childhood, until the end of the film where the story grows darkest and the weather reflects it in darker grays and muted tones. Beyond that, the style of animation that Pixar and ultimately it's director, Enrico Casaros chose, while a little jarring for most, and I have to admit that I was victim to the same way of thinking (that the film couldn't be good because it didn't feel like Pixar anymore), is a genius choice in that it's hard right turn in realism adds to the feeling of a childhood memory or some altered version of one with rose colored glasses. It is a beautiful film that stylistically falls very easily into our hearts, reminding us of what it feels to be young again with it's rich colors, warm embrace, and the jumps into Luca's own daydream moments. 

    The score of the film only serves to highlight the story even more as we are bombarded with loud Italian music filled with life and bravado, and at even more tender moments, the true simplicity of life in a small town reflected in simpler tunes. Beyond that, the sound design delivers the feeling of being by the ocean magnificently and the voice acting is great, with some familiar voices you might end up googling. While the film does well with it's casting for the most part, there are some voices that, while I believe they are intended to stand out to be recognizable, such as the parents, I would have preferred a touch more culture in the choice of actors in the same way that Coco's choice of actors truly added to the realism of the story and ultimately I think is what will end up putting Coco on a much higher pedestal than Luca. But overall, the sound design and scoring is great and is the major reason for the energy and childhood essence injected into the film.  

    The story is tender and familiar to us, if not also a little slow in it's pacing but forgiven quickly because of it's bursts of energy that leave us smiling.  It's familiar because we all know someone or something that reminds us of a childhood memory we had locked away and this film helps to unlock those memories carefully, setting us gently into our childhood. The love shared between Alberto and Luca is heart-warming and is done elegantly and best of all, the two boys aren't afraid to put their arms around each other which truly lends itself to a feeling of innocence and purity. The developing story and character arcs are subtle and yet carry a weight to them. Not only is Giulia's father an apparent single parent, he's also missing an arm (which by the way is something that helps accentuate the strength of the character and his bad-ass attitude rather than make you feel pity for him and I adore it. Especially in the moment when Alberto stares at his arm and we learn that it was lost not due to an accident, but that he was simply born this way. It's a great moment of representation and a reminder that there is nothing wrong being born different). Beyond that, Alberto is alone with a father who isn't present. This is why Alberto's character grows throughout the film because he hasn't had anyone, and he finds love in Luca, a friendship that he feels is threatened by this new friend Giulia and becomes one of the main conflicts of the film. There is tension there and it isn't until Alberto learns to let go of the jealousy and possession that Luca finally approaches him in that final arc of the film to tell him he would win the race for him.


     Then there is the race which of course can be looked at as a metaphor for life, climbing that mountain or winning that race, but while the race is the catalyst for the film, the real conflict is on a much more human level because we have a lot of human emotion being thrown around. Alberto feels lost and alone, Giulia feels incompetent, Luca feels trapped and of course the entire town is set against them with their prejudices. This is a moment that shows Alberto that there can be room for more love in his life and he is revealed to the town as the creature they have grown to hate. But in the end the gray curtain on the town is rolled away and the hate is washed out.  And of course the final moments of the film where Alberto sacrifices his own dream of escape to allow his younger friend to follow his own is of course one of the most emotional and impactful moments of the film which symbolizes the losing of innocence because Alberto has given up on trying to be what he is not, and rather focuses on the present. He loses his childhood and gains a father in Giulia's father. This is capped perfectly with the beautiful shot of Luca on the train and we get the end of the film. 
   The only negatives I can think of are subjective. The story is simple and slow with no real action or high-stakes conflict. While I believe this to actually work in favor of the film, to some this might not be enough to hold their attention. The stylistic choice in animation style might be jarring for some looking for the same Disney and Pixar feel of past films and at times the film can feel a bit young or childish but again, this is the point. 














   Luca, while a departure from the traditional Pixar films and style, is a breath of fresh air and a much needed branch away from the same Disney story told over and over. If you have not seen this film yet, you should. If you have children, watch it. If you are someone who is young at heart, watch it. If you need to be young at heart, watch it. This film will remind you of what it means to feel hopeful and alive and young again.  


If your're interested, you can rent the movie 

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