Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Little Women is a captivating film revealing the early roots of feminism and family bonds.

     Little Women and Luca are two stunning coming of age films that have recently been a source of inspiration especially for today’s youth. Through an emphasis on struggle with one’s self and identity, these two films connect deeply with many individuals who thrive by seeing their life experiences represented on the big screen.


Little Women: A Story of Femininity Through A Historical Lense

          Sprinting through the streets, Jo March rushes to inform her family of the hard-earned book deal she has just received from her publisher. By breaking through gender norms and proving her doubters wrong, Jo celebrates her success, establishing a sense of female empowerment that occurs consistently throughout the film.

          Little Women (2019), is a modern adaptation of the classic novel, Little Women written by the nineteenth century author Louisa May Alcott. The unique coming of age film is a classic tale about four sisters in their journey through life. The four sisters grow through strenuous periods of their life which inflict joy, confusion, pain, and eventually contentment. From being patronized and undermined by her publisher and receiving harsh criticism about her writings, Jo is enlightened on what it means to be independent in a nineteenth century, misogynistic society.

          When the film begins, the lives of the four sisters are introduced. Jo is an aspiring writer, Amy is a struggling artist in Paris, Meg is a mother of two, and Beth remains at home indulged in her piano. As the film ricochets from the past to the present through multiple flashbacks, the family’s prominent adversities are highlighted: their father being at war and their mother having to sacrifice for the family. Laurie Laurence, the mischievous neighbor of the March family, is introduced as the first male companion to the sisters, being especially close to Jo. The friendship of the two young characters provides many important themes of friendship and connection. Additionally, the alliance of Jo and Laurie serves as a source of jealousy for Amy, who loves Laurie, and ends up doing some harsh things as a result of this strong emotion. 

          The various relationships in this movie serve as a storytelling outlet for the character’s journey to mature. Through confusion, grief, and heartbreak the four sisters are able to persevere through life with persistent faith. The refreshing coming-of-age films represent the importance of discovering your true self through instances of unconventional circumstances and inevitable adversities. 

          Additionally, Little Women consists of a unique storytelling technique where the film jumps from past to present throughout the timeline of the movie. This technique builds a wider lens for the viewer to look through and helps to compare the past and present versions of characters for an engaging experience. Although the pace of the movie was a little slow and not many intense events occurred, the connections the film is able to make with viewers through the vulnerable and relatable characters makes up for the pace. 

          Jo can relate to many women of modern societies; she is patronized and underestimated constantly, yet she doesn’t let that hold her back. Jo has to deal with the loss of many important relationships in her life, which speak to viewers who have lost people dear to them. Although the main character has a relatable persona, every character has at least one element with which a viewer can correlate to their own personality; major emotions like jealousy, hopelessness, and indecisiveness are just a few that this film incorporates.  

          Another relatable character, Amy March, has to face the constant comparison to her older sisters, Jo and Meg, throughout the film. Amy, the youngest sister, dreams of being an artist, but her perfectionist nature and high standards for herself hold her back from being truly successful.

          Meg, the oldest and most mature sister, desires luxuries and materialistic pleasures in life. She witnesses the rich lifestyles of her friends and longs for that comfort. However, when Meg marries an impoverished tutor, she has to learn the discipline that comes with peer pressure and self-control.

           Lastly, Beth, a meek pianist, can serve as a source of comfort for those quiet souls who seek comfort in their home and with their personal interests. Beth has to learn what it means to take risks in life and put herself before others. She endures a lot and is known to be the best of the sisters, showcasing her selfless and sensible nature.

           Many viewers feel that the emotions portrayed in this film truly represent how it feels to overcome harsh adversities and life and persevere nevertheless. 

          Steven Turchin, film studies teacher, commented, “The film represents how people can persevere through trials, and what makes life, life.” 

          Turchin also noted that the movie included themes of seeking genuineness and truth and how that can lead to finding true happiness, adding that the movie includes many relatable life experiences such as grief and suffering. This topic prompted many viewers to connect to the film on a deep level; further stating that allowing diversity and getting a change to a perspective would also be an aspiration for the future coming of age films, one that any young person could relate to in some form.

          Overall, this movie contains many necessary elements that could provide a sense of inspiration to young people, and especially women. The film lets the viewer know that their struggles and their imperfections are understood and seen as an achievement rather than a burden.

           Zainab Khalid, 9, stated, “Every time I watch Little Women, I see myself through my favorite character, and the struggles they overcome remind me that I am the main character in my own story who has come so far.”


Luca: A young sea monster’s peculiar identity struggle

          As a sailorman off the coast of a small Italian town ventures into the deep blue waves, he encounters something unusual. A sea monster, covered with green fins and blue scales climbs onto his boat, taking his vintage music player and radio. Unaware that he is in the wrong, the sea monster returns to the deep sea that he calls his home, letting the humans of the Italian town know his location, creating a conflict between the two groups.

          Luca (2021) is a vibrant animated film aimed at family audiences, presenting a fictional tale about sea monsters and humans. The story of the main character, Luca, is emphasized as he struggles to find his identity and achieve his deepest desires. 

          Throughout the movie, Luca has to battle who he is expected to be and who he truly desires to be. The major obstacle in his way is his parents who want him to remain in the sea and live as a sea monster like their tradition demands. Many young people especially can strongly connect to the difficult decisions in life that come with balancing one’s desires. Having an animated, energetic film where they can see themselves through the main character can help validate such common struggles. 

          The movie Luca uses a foil–a contrast of character types–to highlight each unique personality. Luca, for example, has an emotion-led personality and is apprehensive about going onto land as a human at first, but his reckless friend, Alberto helps him find the courage he needs. Both characters become best friends and guide each other with their own distinct personalities. Luca helps Alberto find a sense of friendship and connection that he hasn’t had before, and Alberto brings a sense of adventure and risk into Luca’s. 

          Moreover, there is a competitive man in the town who tries to steal Luca and Alberto’s chance to win a Vespa in the race, which Luca desperately wants so he can escape from the life he is trapped in.  This deceitful character highlights the well-developed morals of the two boys, compared to the ruthless competitor, but also uses the nemesis as a way to test the principles of Luca. 

           The combination of eccentric visuals and consistent storytelling in the film Luca makes for an incredible family film that viewers can draw inspiration from.

          Rebecca Darr, Chemistry teacher, added, “What stood out to me was how much Italian they actually spoke. I feel like this is one of Pixar’s few movies where the language of the country where the movie takes place is incorporated.”

           Many people, especially Italians, would agree with Darr’s statement, as this is one of the first movies where the language of the country is included and even taught to the audience at times. This provides an authentic experience for the viewer who may feel as if they are not represented well enough in the majority of films they view.

           Darr also commented, “The main takeaway of the movie is that it is okay to go on a different path than you initially thought you would take; it’s okay to be curious and explore new territory.” 

          Luca teaches a lesson that Little Women also highlights: the path that you are expected to follow by society is rarely the right one. Rather, the one you choose with your heart and genuine passion, is perhaps the one that you are meant to follow in life.

Shown above is the real life setting of Disney’s 2021 Luca film. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)