The depiction of the Italian Riviera by Pixar Animation Studios resembles a not-so-subtle hint of inspiration from nature poets like Keats, Wordsworth or Shelly. But instead of a sleepy meadow or a buzzing countryside scene, we are treated to an extremely pretty setting of the fictional Italian seaside town of Portorosso.
Luca marks an impressive feature directional debut for Enrico Casarosa. Growing up in the port city of Genoa, he projects his childhood memories onto the film.
Casarosa’s directional debut of the Oscar-nominated short film “La Luna” is also set in Genoa.
Luca is set during the 1950s-60s with sheltered Luca voiced by 14-year-old Canadian Jacob Tremblay as the protagonist of the story. He leads a routinely drab life of farming and shepherding in the sea.
The surface where the humans live is considered forbidden land by Luca’s parents. “They’re here to do murders,” exclaims Luca’s mother when Luca informs her that he’s seen a boat. The American actress and comedian Maya Rudolph does a neat job as the voice of the mother.
The introduction of Alberto changes Luca’s life. Not only does he find a confidant, he also gains a friend. Alberto births in Luca a sense of adventure and Luca daydreams about the two of them travelling the world in a Vespa. Alberto says that a Vespa is the greatest thing that humans ever made.
Alberto is voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, a 17-year-old American actor.
Casarosa’s time in the Italian Riviera during the 1980s was mostly spent with his childhood friend Alberto. The character traits of Luca and Alberto are versions of the director and his companion. Casarosa’s interview with the celebrity gossip publication Entertainment Weekly sheds brighter light. “I was timid and kinda shy, and he was following a passion every week. I would just run around the old town in Genoa, which is kinda dicey.”
Luca is a story of intricate relationships and connections with friendship and family being the driving force of the story.
Luca and Alberto come from two completely different worlds. Luca is sheltered and timid. Alberto is independent.
Alberto helps Luca overcome his shyness and turns him into a daredevil with one phrase – “Silenzio Bruno!”
Luca on the other hand offers Alberto companionship that is necessary and important.
There is a fight. And things are revealed.
- Alberto’s sense of loneliness that stems from his father’s abandonment.
- Marks on the wall that the poster of the Vespa hid.
- The marks that represent the days of the Alberto’s father’s abandonment.
This fear of abandonment starts affecting their friendship when they meet Giulia a happy, go-lucky, extremely determined contender for the Portorosso Cup. Giulia explains that The Portorosso Cup is an epic, grueling, traditional Italian triathlon. Emma Berman, a 12-year-old actress voices the character of Giulia.
As Luca gets closer to Giulia, resentment starts building within Alberto.
While there are numerous reports and Twitter handles suggesting the alleged homosexual relationship between Luca and Alberto, I watched a movie that did not feel anything like that.
I thought Luca was a coming-of-age story and movie that tells the story of friendship between two adolescent boys.
The director seconds my observations.
He has explicitly denied the existence of a homosexual relationship between the two. Although the movie has been accused of ‘queerbaiting’, it is in my opinion one of the best animated and storytelling experiences of the year.
The friendship endures lies, jealousy, and betrayal. If that isn’t a childhood friendship then what is?
Alberto’s fear of abandonment stems from the disappearance or desertion of his father. In Massimo he finds a father figure willing to give him a chance. Massimo in turn treats Alberto like his own son.
Giulia spends only her summers in Portorosso, while the rest of the year in Genoa is spent with her mother. We can only assume that the parents are separated/divorced.
When Alberto moves in with Massimo, he fills a gap in their otherwise lonely lives.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the inspiration for Portorosso is believed to have been an area called the Cinque Terre—meaning ‘Five Lands.’ The area is located on Italy’s north-western coast and is comprised of five villages.
“I highly recommend walking between the five towns and trying the local wine, Sciacchetra,” Casarosa said.
After extensive personal research, I can bravely say that this could be the next dream destination for most. Cinque Terre is just as picturesque and breathtaking as the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos.
The thought process that went into the making of Luca was to give the audience a glimpse into the Riviera and a piece of Casarosa’s childhood. In an interview with entertainment website, Collider, Casarosa emphasizes on the reason the movie was set in the 50s and 60s.
“The music is wonderful in that time, the design, the cars, the Vespas, so we wanted to capture a little bit of this timelessness of summer.”
Author: Neil Wallang
Neil Wallang is a staff writer. He has a Masters in English from Delhi University. An avid Manchester United fan, he loves technology, cars, and books.