Review: Luca (2021)

I listened to about half of Fun Home and now I’m watching Luca with a friend and holy fuck Luca is very queer. Not even queercoded, really, just straight up queer. Like, this is the thinnest possible gauzy veiling. It’s about as veiled as Animal Farm.

On the one hand, Disney seriously needs to have good direct, unambiguous queer representation and I sympathize with feeling like they haven’t earned the right to tell this story.

But on the other, holy fuck am I glad this is going to reach kids whose parents would never take them to a movie that’s directly about discovering your queerness and society trying to shove you back in the closet. I’m not even entirely sure you COULD tell this story directly.

Like, anyone queer knows exactly what this story is. Even straight people who wouldn’t be opposed to this story are not likely to go see it because they wouldn’t think it’s relatable or interesting to them. And they need to see it. They need to understand what this is like.

This doesn’t feel like it’s trying to hide queerness, it feels like it’s trying to translate the experience into a metaphor people don’t have prior assumptions about so they’ll listen. It does also get past censorship to reach more queer kids.

I don’t think you could tell this movie in anything but subtext. ESPECIALLY not as a kids movie. It would be way, way too painful to queer people to directly hear the insults, rejection, and violence we face daily. And as I said, people who aren’t queer would ignore it.

There’s gonna be a lot of kids (and probably adults) who resonate with this in a way they might not recognize for years. But it will make them feel less alone when they do. It will give them a tool to talk to their families and friends.

We know what this feeling of being torn between worlds between people who see us as inhuman and people who are destructively afraid of us being seen even if they love us. And the Grandma between worlds who subverts the “wisdom” to suppress Luca.

No one would buy the town with a history of violence against queer people just suddenly accepting accepting them. Metaphor and fantasy gives room to imagine how else the world could be. I think this movie is wonderful. This is precisely why humans invented subtext.

Yeah, a lot of assholes are gonna deny subtext exists because they don’t want to be challenged or see the message (or are insecure about not understanding and lash out). That was done to The Yellow Wallpaper about ableism against women or Animal Farm about fascism, too.

But there’s a reason people have used metaphors and subtext to talk about complex and difficult things for as long as fiction has been around. This is how human brains work. This is poetry. I think this is a really beautiful film.

For the record, the subtext is not the relationship. That’s a piece, but the subtext is having to hide who you fundamentally are because people will reject you and hurt you if you don’t. It’s parents so scared you’ll get hurt they hurt you first, even though they love you.

It’s the uncle who’s going to take Luca to the deep dark that from the after credits scene is 100% living deeply closeted and telling yourself it’s fine actually as it drives you a bit bonkers and isolates you.

The subtext is finding yourself transformed in a forbidden world you’ve been told will only hurt you but finding magic and love and connection and dreams there. And it getting harder and harder to go back. Losing part of yourself and hiding part of yourself to do it.

It’s the two old woman with the ice cream living in town who were secret sea monsters but only Luca and Alberto’s bravery revealing themselves let them reveal themselves and stop hiding it. But only after checking in with each other. The message it they were there all along.

This movie is as deep as the ocean and as queer as Virginia Woolf & Vita Sackville-West. Denying the queer subtext is the only way to conclude this movie is shallow and that’s an incorrect interpretation of the text. Like I said, it’s as subtle as Animal Farm. I love it.

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