Disney/Pixar’s Luca may not be a whimsical summer romance like Call Me By Your Name, but it can still be read as an uplifting LGBTQ+ story.
While it seems like a nod to Call Me By Your Name, director Enrico Casarosa has made it clear that Luca isn’t a story about a whimsical romance. Comparisons have been made, unsurprisingly, due to Luca and Alberto’s thriving friendship on the Italian Riviera, spending summers together and chasing dreams of getting a Vespa. However, although the film does not explicitly depict a boy in love, it can be read as LGBTQ+ because of its message about outsiders.
The film frames Luca and Alberto, two sea monsters turned human teenagers on land, as people who just want to find their place in society. They want to be accepted and, wanting better terms, feel normal. That’s why Alberto, who is in his tower alone with no friends or family, is attracted to Luca and shows him how life on land works.
What’s interesting is that they were forced to hide their true identity because humanity thought their species was a monster, so why were they being hunted. This causes them to take on their disguises and pretend to be like other people, which can be likened to the weirdo in the closet. And as they hide their true form to avoid persecution, they learn a lot about xenophobia, intimidation, ignorance, and hatred, but also acceptance thanks to Giulia and her father Massimo.
The father-daughter duo educates the city in the end and explains that these boys are part of their community and not scapegoats. In addition, two other women reveal their fish forms, and Luca’s grandmother admits that she visits the surface quite often, which can once again be seen as a person who finds happiness by leaving their secret life behind.
The point is, when the boys “come out” to town, at last, shamelessly and unrepentantly, people realize that it’s best to stop being afraid of what they don’t understand. Life is all about progress, and while Luca’s grandmother admits some people won’t accept Luca, she also believes that she will find someone who will let her be her best self. Connecting with someone’s tribe like this could be read as a very strange experience, especially since he just wanted to go to school and fit in. As for Alberto, having felt abandoned by his father, he only wanted a sense of kinship, which Massimo provided by adopting and making him whole again.
Specifically, in the post-credits, we see Massimo and Luca maintain their friendship through letters, while Guilia and Luca enjoy their school days. There is nothing romantic between the latter couple, which shows that they are just friends. On the other hand, considering how Alberto runs the train to say goodbye to Luca, there may be a hidden subtext that suggests more than friendship. After all, Alberto helps Luca find himself and avoid being sent to the “Deep One”, far from land and happiness that his parents don’t understand. While their hearts are in the right place, this could also be seen as a parent trying to take their child’s true identity from him.
In the end, Luca’s message of love and unity is so strong, it doesn’t require romance, and the way this trio looks after each other can be seen as pure friendship with no strings attached. But the prodigy between boys, in particular, striving for something bigger, does have rainbow energy that creates a brighter and better world.
The film is streaming on Disney+.