The Story of Luke: Film Review

Good intentions do nothing to redeem cringe-worthy disability tale.

Lou Taylor Pucci plays an autistic man yanked out of his comfort zone when his caretaker dies in filmmaker Alonso Mayo's disability tale.

A feel-good autism tale that could only please viewers whose real-world experience with the disorder leaves them hungry for sources of optimism, Alonso Mayo's The Story of Luke suffers all the flaws associated with disability films and more. Familiar faces in the cast may attract notice in niche bookings, but no one involved will benefit from the exposure.

Playing the autistic title character, Lou Taylor Pucci employs wide, nervously darting eyes, an uncomfortable grimace, and an arsenal of fashion faux pas; most embarrassingly, he draws out the final words of sentences as if in imitation of Crispin Glover's weirdest performances.

For a time, Luke shares the screen with another crudely drawn misfit -- his grandfather Jonas (Kenneth Welsh), a senile lecher. Following Luke's grandmother's death, the two men fall into the care of uncle Paul (Cary Elwes), whose wife Cindy (an impossibly shrewish character made even less believable by Kristin Bauer) can hardly stand to look at them, and will hardly speak to the husband who has taken them in.

Cindy soon sticks Jonas in a nursing home, and Luke, realizing he'd better start earning his keep, manages to get a provisional job in a corporate mail room. His misanthropic boss Zack (Seth Green), accustomed to managing "retards," is abusive at first; before long, though, he begins coaching Luke in the verbal and gestural cues required to make "NTs" (neurotypicals) comfortable in his presence. (Green's performance is considerably broader than others here, as if director Mayo couldn't decide whether he was directing an oddball workplace comedy starring Luke and Zack or a Lifetime film about the man's domestic plight.)

Surely, Zack's goofy project dramatizes a struggle autistic people actually face, and the film gets easier to take the further it gets from cartoonish illustrations of Luke's condition. But rallying behind its protagonist doesn't make up for the movie's inability to make him a human being in the first place -- or for the world of straw-stuffed villains it has created to antagonize him.

Production companies: Dviant Films, Fluid Film
Cast: Lou Taylor Pucci, Seth Green, Cary Elwes, Kristin Bauer, Kenneth Welsh, Tyler Stentiford, Mackenzie Munro
Director-screenwriter: Alonso Mayo
Producers: Nina Leidersdorff, Julien Favre, Fred Roos
Executive producers: Jeong Jun You, Chris Jung, Steve LeBlanc, Ellen LeBlanc, Luca Matrundola
Director of photography: David Klein
Production designer: Craig Lathrop
Music: Mateo Messina
Costume designer: Melissa Stewart
Editor: Vikash Patel
No rating, 95 minutes

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