Jun 17, 2021 | Posted by in Movies

An inquisitive Sea Monster looks to learn about the ways of the surface world in Enrico Casarosa’s Luca.

Pixar films are always worth a look as the quality of the production is usually first rate on every conceivable level. The animation, writing, voice acting, imagination and so on usually impress which makes any project that is upcoming one to watch out for.

Luca is different to many of the recent Pixar releases. The likes of SoulOnward and Inside Out were focused on tugging on the heart strings with deeply moving emotionally driven character stories where Luca is a far lighter experience with less emotional intensity. It still wants the audience to feel but that prompting is geared in a heart-warming rather than heartbreaking direction.

The story focuses on the titular Luca (Jacob Tremblay); a young Sea Monster curious about the surface world and less than satisfied with the vague fear rooted answers his parents give to his endless questions about what is up there. As with any curious protagonist he takes it upon himself to visit the surface world and experience it for himself. He meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer); a fellow Sea Monster who lives the life that Luca thinks he wants for reasons that the film eventually makes clear. They strike up a fast friendship founded on their curiosity, shared adventurous spirit and desire to own a Vespa. Periodically added to this friendship is Giulia (Emma Berman); a young Human girl who has no idea of their true origins.



Luca and Alberto’s friendship is always engaging. They compliment each other, challenge each other, have a lot of fun together, support each other emotionally and generally explore the Human world together learning more about each other as well as themselves as they go. Giulia comes and goes as needed but never superfluous nor does the long stretches where she doesn’t form part of their dynamic feel as if she is being missed. There is a masterful command of character through the management of these relationships and impressive restraint keeping the film from falling into particular traps.

At its core Luca is about friendship though it’s also about persecution, adventure, curiosity, desire and so on. It’s about a lot of things which amounts to its greatest flaw as it’s difficult to latch onto what is being said about a particular topic before it moves onto something else. It juggles the various themes to the point it feels overstuffed and directionless at times.

The ideas themselves are very strong. Sea Monsters with the gimmick of taking Human Form whenever they go on dry land then reverting to their natural form upon exposure to water is easy to follow and represents the fear of persecution when showing your true self. This can be applied to anything people might keep hidden for any reason and it factors into the narrative in really interesting ways. When combined with the innocence of Luca not understanding why the fear would exist when he is endlessly curious about everything outside of what he is familiar with. He can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t feel the same even though the background he comes from is driven by that same fear albeit framed in a different way. This naturally brings in the idea of tolerance through how the villagers react to even the mere suggestion of the unknown as a constant reminder of why Luca and his people have reason to be afraid.


Be who you were born to be

One of the things the film gets right is the village setting. It’s a vibrant, electric place with lots of activity, strong personalities, a clear culture that sustains itself and an infectious atmosphere that persists throughout the film. The underwater setting works well enough but doesn’t receive enough attention to be as well developed. It’s difficult to get a sense of how it functions and is fairly sparse when featured. It serves its purpose but little else though the village is undoubtedly where the viewer should focus their intentions.

Another strong feature of the film is how it instils a sense of wonder in its characters and, by extension the viewer. The escalation of curiosity is deftly handled with Luca’s curiosity about the surface world naturally evolving to being curious about what lies above the surface world. His limited understanding along with Alberto’s speculation captures his imagination and allows him to imagine an intricate world full of infinite majesty existing in a layer above the surface world. Several imagination driven sequences where his perspective on that is explored are visually arresting and beautifully creative in their execution. Luca’s innocent wonder is infectious and truly captures the overall optimism that the film works to promote.

In general the visuals are excellent. The Sea Monster designs are impressive with each of them being immediately identifiable at a glance. This also applies to the translation to their human forms and the various stages of transformation shown dependent on how much water they’re exposed to are nicely implemented particularly when they are used to cultivate jeopardy. Everything is beautifully animated and matches Pixar’s usual high standards with many strong sequences showcasing the immense creativity on display.


Keeping things concealed


A beautifully animated, heart-warming story of friendship, tolerance, imagination and wonder. The focus with this film is on being heart-warming rather than heartbreaking and the central friendship that drives the narrative is constantly engaging. Visually the film is stunning with some really creative imagination sequences contribution to the sense of wonder and the innocent perspective of Luca as a character is infectious. At times it gets bogged down in touching on a lot of themes to the extent that it feels overstuffed and directionless but there’s no denying the creativity and masterful command of character.

  • Luca


Kneel Before…

  • a masterful command of character
  • a strong heart-warming friendship narrative
  • engaging characters
  • beautiful animation
  • creative sequences that promote a sense of wonder
  • the wonderfully crafted village setting


Rise Against…

  • juggling too many themes leading to the film feeling overstuffed and directionless at times


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