I’m a bit late in the game writing about this year’s Pixar movie, Luca, but better late than never! With my love for brotherhood as portrayed in media, I had to write about this movie. Luca greatly encouraged me for its depictions of male friendship, though it also elicited some LGBT+ controversy as well as surprisingly difficult emotions internally.
To sum up the movie’s plot: Luca is a young sea monster who lives under the ocean with his parents, and he grows tired of his life herding fish. Disobeying his parents, he leaps above water to dry land, to the world of humans where he takes human form. There Luca meets a fellow sea monster-turned-human named Alberto, and they immediately form a friendship.
Alberto is extremely outgoing and adventure-seeking while Luca is much more timid and a bit of a scaredy-cat. Despite their different personalities, they bond over a shared curiosity for the human world — most notably, the Vespa scooter and the possibilities it signifies. Alberto teaches Luca to break out of his shell and find courage, becoming the brother Luca needed and never had.
Eventually, Luca and Alberto venture into the nearby human town to find a Vespa. There they befriend a girl named Giulia who tells them about entering a triathlon where they can win a Vespa as the grand prize. In their efforts to join the race, they also fight bullies and ultimately reveal their true identities as sea monsters to the fearful villagers. Alberto also grows jealous of Luca’s friendship with Giulia and his budding desire to learn and attend human school.
Luca is a less complex Pixar movie in many ways; it’s not exactly one that delves into the meaning of life like Soul brilliantly did.
At its core, Luca is simply about a friendship between two boys. It was refreshing to see a deep, loving friendship between boys; so few movies really show this.
This isn’t a dumb, surface-level “bromance” that every bad rom-com plays up. Luca’s and Alberto’s friendship is serious; they truly love and care for each other. In a culture obsessed with romantic relationships, this was wonderful to see.
But Luca has also brought some controversy. Some have accused Luca of queerbaiting — that is, hinting at or even promising LGBT+ representation, only not to deliver for fear of the reaction.
Queerbaiting surrounded the last Star Wars movie, wherein the first gay characters of the franchise were promised before release, only for two characters to kiss in the background, an easy miss. Apparently, this move was made to avoid too much controversy with viewers in China.
For some, Luca clearly depicted a gay relationship between Luca and Alberto but cowered in showing their romantic relationship. Others say that even if Luca and Alberto weren’t explicitly gay, their backgrounds as close friends while hiding their true identities as sea monsters is an allegory for the LGBT+ experience.
Once again this shows how our culture just loves to sexualize everything, and how a deep, nonsexual relationship between two boys is incomprehensible.
Luca‘s director, Enrico Casarosa, has stated that because Luca and Alberto are prepubescent, their friendship cannot be sexual. He has also described their friendship as based on his own childhood best friend.
If people want to interpret Luca as a gay allegory wherein two boys mask part of their identities, I say that’s totally fine. Heck, I can relate to that.
However, gay people do not hold a monopoly on this storyline of hiding something of one’s self from a disapproving society. Frankly, this is a theme for literally anyone.
Many people hide something of themselves out of cultural fear: this can relate to ethnicity, religious beliefs, even belief in Bigfoot.
While I think Luca‘s theme is a universal one open to all human interpretations, I really am against interpreting this same-sex friendship as strictly gay. This view damages younger boys by reinforcing the toxic belief that intimacy between two people of the same sex is “strictly gay.” Straight boys may grow up to think: Oh, only gay people do that. I’m straight, so I shouldn’t have a similar relationship with another boy.
Anyway, as much as I love Luca, another aspect of the film made it admittedly difficult for me to watch — in sort of a good way, I suppose.
Luca put me in a state of longing, I wish I’d had a relationship like Luca’s and Alberto’s growing up. More specifically, I wish I’d had an Alberto in boyhood.
I recently wrote about how my childhood friendships weren’t the most ideal. I was and am very much like Luca from the start of the movie: timid, shy, sheltered, and often scared of taking chances.
If only I’d had a big brother figure like Alberto, or like the director’s real life best friend. How different would I be now? Would I be more self-confident? Would I have had more of my emotional needs met? Heck, would I even still be sexually attracted to men?
It’s useless speculating, because what’s done is done. We still live in a supposedly sexually liberated culture, yet one that’s also prudish and reactionary to close male friendships.
But having movies like Luca with a beautiful friendship between two boys gives me much hope.
One last Luca clip I’ll share does spoil the ending. But I found this to be a beautiful way to end things. I’m not crying, you are!
What did you think of Luca? Did you have any childhood friendships as depicted in the movie, or did Luca leave you with longing?