Two kids, Luca and Alberto spend their time as gilled and finned creatures living under the sea.
But if they make their way onto land, they transform into humans free to be kids and interact with the Italian locals. Luca and Alberto share an intense bond, but must hide who they REALLY are from the judgmental, fearful people they encounter. They grow closer sharing a special bond as they swim and bike ride in the Italian countryside.
Sound kinda familiar. A bit like, Call Me By Your Name ..?
The new Pixar movie Luca shares a name with the Oscar-winning queer romance’s –director, Luca Guadagnino. (Luca IS a common name in Italy.)
Luca’s director says of the film,
“I was really keen to talk about a friendship before girlfriends and boyfriends come in to complicate things.”
Marisa Martinelli at Slate says,
Even beyond the superficial similarities to Call Me By Your Name, it seems, at the very least, open to interpretation. There’s no doubt that Luca offers an allegory about identity, passing, and the way people fear others who are not like them. In this case, the two boys’ true identity just happens to be their hidden natures as sea monsters.
They have their share of moments that could be easily interpreted as puppy love, such as when they’re stargazing with their arms around each other, and their secret time together is liberating for them. It’s also forbidden. When Luca’s mother finds out about it, she doesn’t understand, and she’s afraid for him. She threatens to send him further into the depths—away from land, but also from Alberto’s influence.
Vanity Fair‘s Richard Lawson agrees,
That outline holds an obvious potential for queer allegory, and indeed many Pixar fans tracking the film’s development quickly labeled Luca as the studio’s ‘gay movie’—a coming-out story to be placed on Pixar’s mantle alongside its meditations on grief, artistic expression, loneliness, Ayn Rand-ian objectivism, and parenting. Finally, Disney might actually venture into queer storytelling, a vast landscape of human experience that the studio has only meekly (and smugly) gestured toward in recent years.
Casarosa has explicitly said that the film is not a queer story, that it is all “platonic” and determinedly “pre-pubescent.” That suggests a limited understanding of gay growing up, particularly of when our feelings of affection and special closeness and difference can first develop. It would seem, as it so often does, that in Casarosa’s (and perhaps Disney’s) view, queerness must specifically involve sex to be queerness at all.
And, of course, Pixar is never going to make a movie, ostensibly for kids, that even hints at sex.
Medium‘s Richard LeBeau‘s review spells out the charm and frustration of Luca,
The idea that we might get a queer-themed Pixar film was exciting for many in the community. Despite the extraordinary strides in queer representation on television and in film that have been taken in the past 25 years, there is enormous room for improvement. There has never been an animated or action film made by a major studio that has a major queer character.
The frustration of this for the community has only been compounded in recent years, as many major franchises have experimented with queer representation in laughably benign ways. Marvel had an unnamed bit character reference his male partner in Avengers: Endgame, a female pilot kissed her female partner for a split second at the end of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Gaston’s right hand man LeFou briefly danced with a man at the end of the live action Beauty and the Beast, and a lesbian cop popped up for one scene in Pixar’s Onward. Combined these scenes accounted for under five minutes of screen time.
The goal seemed to be to see how much backlash the filmmakers and studios would get in order to see if it was worth the risk to try for more representation, showing that it was much more of a business-based decision than an artistic- or values-based one.
Queer or not, audiences are loving it with a Rotten Tomatoes Fresh rating of 90% and an Audience rating of 88%.