My name is Luca

Luca is the new film from Disney-Pixar, released in June. It’s the work of Genoese director Enrico Casarosa, and the last thing it needs is more publicity. Some might sneer at the paragraphs that we’ve dedicated to it here.

But this wonderful animated cartoon touches on a theme very close to our hearts at “Vivere di Gusto”, and it does it with a charming poetic grace. It looks at us Italians and at a certain way of being through the eyes of someone apparently “different”.

Luca is the story of two sea monster cubs who live in their sea monstrous community – warm, protective, affectionate – in the sea along the Ligurian coast, just off Cinque Terre.

There is no love lost, however, between these sea monsters and humankind. In this submarine society, it is absolutely forbidden to leave the water for those perilous beaches and human contact. This is the one golden rule.

Naturally, this is a rule that the two young sea monsters break: time after time on their adventures, they shatter the cultural barrier between these two worlds. They end up agog with wonder and admiration as they marvel at the way people live in these seaside villages, their customs, their games, their food, the happy chaos they generate. They marvel at the colors, the mode of life, the flaming red Vespa that zooms down the lanes, the ubiquitous trofie pasta, slathered in pesto. Instinctively attracted to these strange new beauties and bounties, they decide to settle down on the shore, build a little house for themselves, and defy their destinies as creatures of the deep, where life is wet and far from the joys of terra ferma.

Slowly but surely, the two young sea monsters make friends with a young girl and become part of Italian life, in all its customs and peculiarities. Through gestures of kindness and courage, they are accepted into the little town, where they learn to live and enjoy life.

We should say one thing at this point. When in contact with air, the young monsters assume the visage of young human boys, so to the people of Cinque Terre, that’s how they seem: eccentric, quirky, a bit rustic, but undoubtedly humans. Water, on the other hand, turns them back into sea monsters. So when, at the film’s climax, a cloudburst reveals them for who they are, the miracle of integration is already complete. No more are they hunted as terrible aquatic beasts, long blamed for the many shipwrecks that have occurred in the area); they are now treated as marine animals that can enrich a community with their diversity. They share the same feelings, fears, needs and dreams as humans do. They are able to go to school and benefit from education, one of humankind’s most wonderful inventions; they also have a family to hold close in moments of difficulty or growing pains.

To change a word is to change everything: everything is now seen from another perspective. The two young boys are no longer perceived as monsters, but as living, feeling beings.

I won’t say any more, because it would be a shame to give any spoilers away. I don’t want to wax on about how fun and moving the story is, because it’s something the viewer should experience for themselves. It’s the story of a confident, welcoming Italy in the joyous 1950s, blooming again after the war, bursting with flavors, fraternity, beauty, and icons of healthy progress like the Vespa. It’s an Italy of fun and friendship, large families and strong family ties, and all of this is what makes this film an absolute gem, one of Disney-Pixar’s finest. It’s also the best possible manifesto for Vivere di Gusto all’Italiana, which we also – with less panache, sadly – do our bit to promote in this magazine.