Animation,  Comedy,  Family

LUCA and Alberto: The Subtlety of Toxic Friendships


Director: Enrico Casarosa

Date Created: 2021-06-18 00:00

Editor's Rating:

So, I recently watched Luca and the one word that keeps coming to my mind for this movie is just – “cute.” It was so cute and the naivety and innocence of Luca and his newfound friend, Alberto, was so endearing. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the underlying toxicity under the colorful cuteness.

luca and alberto
Luca and Alberto; movie poster
Luca is about two sea monsters who journey above the water to explore and marvel in the dangerous land of humans. 

In Luca, what caught my attention the most was the complexity of the relationship between Luca and Alberto. It was more than just two friends who did things together. People’s upbringing and their relational traumas affect their friendship and this movie illustrates that concept very clearly. So, I just wanted to dig a little deeper into how this friendship between Luca and Alberto, although adorable, was also subtly toxic.

I use the term subtle toxicity because, on the surface, things may seem peachy but over time, the little controlling attitudes that were habitual in the beginning become restrictive and harmful. 

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Elements of Subtle Toxicity in Luca and Alberto’s Friendship

Uneven Power Dynamics

One of the most telling signs of toxicity in a relationship is an imbalance in power. The power to choose how your time and money are spent. Having a say when making decisions. Something as simple as being able to say “no” without backlash.

Luca and Alberto’s friendship felt unbalanced. It was Alberto who called the shots, who made things happen, who planned activities and carried them out. Lucas’s input was often ignored and shot down. Especially at the beginning of the relationship.

A healthy relationship recognizes each individual’s agency and doesn’t impose on that. Healthy relationships enhance each individual’s strength rather than make one person weak in order to make the other feel stronger. 

Bad Influences

Alberto had Luca out here risking his life over and over again. There was a point in the movie where I was just amazed at the fact that Luca was still alive. Realistically, Luca died about 4 and a half times during the course of the movie. 

Friends naturally influence each other but it was very clear that Alberto had more influence over Luca than vice versa. I think it was great that Alberto pushed Luca out of his comfort zone but we don’t see Luca influencing Alberto to maybe think twice before embarking on dangerous territory. 

The influence was a one-way street. 

Different Upbringings 

Alberto was a troubled kid. He had been abandoned and had to build a hard outer shell of grandiose in order to survive the betrayal he felt from his family. 

Luca, on the other hand, has two parents, comes from a loving home, and is the classic good kid who chooses to do the right thing because if he does the wrong thing, he’s held accountable. 

Luca was too sheltered and Alberto wasn’t sheltered enough. They needed to find a middle ground. Because their experiences with relationships were so different, the process to try to get them on a healthy page with each other had a lot of push and pull.

In order to get them both to become equal partners in the relationship, they both had to change. Luca had to stand up for himself and Alberto had to let go of the leash he put on Luca.

Unhealthy Jealousy

Alberto became really jealous once Luca found his own footing. He couldn’t handle the fact that Luca was a self-sustained person with dreams separate from his own, plans different than his own, and thoughts different than his own. He wanted Luca to remain gullible so that he could rely on Alberto’s friendship. Alberto wanted to be needed and when it looked like Luca didn’t need him anymore, his fear of abandonment kicked in and he tried to break Luca’s wings.

We didn’t get the full picture of Alberto’s past and upbringing but obviously, he had been abandoned in his past which caused him to develop a possessiveness over the gullible Luca. 

Coming for the Neck

When Alberto tried to expose Luca as a sea monster but then Luca turned it around and placed a target on Alberto’s back, I was lowkey proud of Luca cuz Alberto really tried it. He was really like, you can’t have any other friends than me and I’ll make sure of it. But instead, his whole ploy came back to bite him in the tail as he deserved. Thankfully, he didn’t get hurt cuz then I would feel really bad about Luca standing up for himself.

This level of backstabbing is just unhealthy. Even on bad terms, friends should not exploit vulnerable information that was told in confidence. That’s just basic human decency. You should feel safe being able to be vulnerable with a friend whether things remain peachy or go south. 

People Change

At one point in the movie, I was hoping that Luca would drop Alberto as a friend because it seemed like the pattern of Alberto trying to hold Luca back from greatness would persist. Also, Luca seemed too willing to throw away his own desires in order to stay with Alberto. I think that it’s noble to remain loyal to someone despite their flaws but once their flaws start holding you back from greatness, idk, it’s not worth it for me. Let me just love you from afar. 

If loving you means not loving myself, it’s a wrap.

But Alberto changed. He let Luca free and developed a loving father-son relationship with Guilia’s father. So it’s important to remember that people can change and are also often blind to how their pain in past relationships affects their future relationships. We all need little grace, understanding, and patience.

In Conclusion…

Healthy people make up healthy relationships but realistically, everyone has areas of hurt. Because there are no perfect people, there is no perfect relationship but ultimately healthy relationships make you better. They energize you, uplift you, highlight your strengths, and cover your weaknesses.

Although all relationships, toxic and healthy, are capable of producing growth and change, friendships that hold you back, put you down, or devalue you are not friends that you continue to keep close.

At the end of the day, Luca and Alberto found their point of equilibrium (I hope) and created a better friendship by the end of the movie. Hopefully, it stays that way beyond the ending credits. 

Rating: 7.6/10

What are your thoughts on Luca and Alberto’s relationship? Let me know in the comments below!

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Peace, love, and lots of popcorn,


How toxic do you think Luca and Alberto's relationship was?


  • IMO Flicks

    When I'm not over-analyzing movies, I'm eating chocolate, belting my favorite songs, and binge-watching reality dating shows. Feel free to share your opinions with me and follow me through my social links!


  • Ramie

    Its really interesting to rewatch Luca because youll really start to notice how much Alberto is kinda of a Bad Influence to Luca.

    Dont Get me wrong, Alberto really helped alot helping bringing Luca out of his oversheltered life but theres really just something off about him convincing Luca to runaway from his parents, or make him “silence Bruno” , especially when it comes to dangerous situations. Not to mention him becoming more and more possesive of Luca and needlessly agressive to Giulia.

    That being said, The Character did Grow and mature by the end. We get to learn that he was abandoned by his father (likely leading to his rowdiness/ being possesive) . He now had a new father figure to guide him, AND he selflessly sold the Vespa to pay for Luca’s education because he really does care for his friend.

    Yall get what i mean? Now this may read as Alberto hate, but i genuinely Like his Character! Arguably my favorite in the movie. He just has so much growth and layers to it for such a seemingly simple movie!

    • IMO Flicks

      VERY well said. I completely agree and don’t think it reads as Alberto hate at all. Just acknowledgment of the complexity of his friendship with Luca. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  • Bolu

    I, at first, was mad at Luca for throwing Alberto under the bus for exposing that he was a sea monster, but now I see that that was Luca’s first time of protecting and looking out for himself. Alberto set him up for execution out of jealousy. Guilia was someone they could both confide in, but Alberto didn’t want to hope that any human would accept sea monsters. As someone who enjoys being in the human world so much, he sold himself out just to keep Luca from leaving, which stems from his father leaving him. The actions of them both are very believable and I’m glad they both grew as people/ sea monsters through their friendship.

    • IMO Flicks

      Totally believable actions and a realistic friendship honestly. Also glad their friendship blossomed into something healthier. Thanks for your thoughtful comment! 🙂

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