In Alonso Mayo’s debut film The Story of Luke, Luke (Lou Taylor Pucci), a twenty-five-year-old autistic man, grew up never knowing his parents. His mother abandoned him when he was young, and he never knew his father. He was raised and sheltered by his grandparents. After his grandmother dies, he finds himself living alongside his grandfather Jonas (who is incapable of taking care of himself) in the home of his Uncle Paul (Cary Elwes), Aunt Cindy (Kristin Bauer van Straten), and his two cousins, Brad and Megan.
His routine world is turned upside down when he moves in with his family, who immediately place his grandfather into a nursing home. Luke takes his grandfather’s advice to “get his shit together,” and goes on a quest to find a job and a nice girl who won’t nag and likes to travel. Luke decides to get a job, and after being advised by his cousin Megan to search in the classifieds, he goes to a job counselor where he is directed to SMILES, a company that assists differently-abled individuals in finding jobs.
Pucci’s performance as the quirky, high-functioning Luke left little to be desired, giving extremely insightful view into the everyday challenges people with autism face. In the beginning of the film, he struggles with breaking from his normal routine. He runs away from Uncle Paul’s after the first day to return to his grandmother’s house to cook himself breakfast and watch his regular cooking show. He’s uncomfortable, he’s awkward, and he’s just plain lovable.
The movie, categorized as a comedy, crawls to eventual humor. But the over-arching serious themes made it difficult to laugh at Luke’s unfiltered dialogue. At times, it seemed wrong to laugh at a comedic spin that was put on his life, but Mayo portrays Luke as a witty man-child who takes everything so literally and says exactly what is on his mind. When Luke is allowed to do job training with his overbearing, crazy supervisor Zach (Seth Green), the comedic scenes were not in short supply. Green is memorable in his role as an angry genius who also has trouble fitting in with society, a very different than the uptight intellect that he normally plays (Dan Mott Without a Paddle, for example). His presence ultimately puts a lighter spin on the film.
After learning to work in the mailroom of the job, Zach decides to take Luke on as a case study. He helps Luke act “normal” in order to win over the girl of his dreams, Maria, who works at the job counseling agency. Luke learns many things along his journey, but also teaches everyone around him very valuable lessons.
The Story of Luke is a great film for anyone with a slightly dark sense of humor. Mayo does an excellent job portraying Luke and the challenges that he faces everyday. The film reminds us that some of the challenges that arise with autism might not be any more difficult than those of the average person searching for happiness.
Verdict: Movie Win