- Why do you think Luca’s parents are so opposed to his interest in the human world? How do they express their concern? Do you think there was a better way they could have approached this?
Caregiver Note: At the beginning of the movie we see Luca collecting small treasures left behind from the humans and asks his parents questions about what it’s like on the surface. Luca’s mother repeatedly refuses to talk about it, instead just telling him that he shouldn’t be interested in them because they’re murderers and if he goes on land they will kill him. At this point Luca’s simply curious and interested in learning more. Instead of discussing his interest, why it’s important to him and finding a way for him to explore it safely, his mom simply forbids it, shutting him down. As most parents of teenagers know, telling them they can’t do something seems to only make them want to do it more. Had she been willing to sit down with Luca and have an open dialogue about his passions and calmly explain her reasons for concern, perhaps things would have turned out differently. While a blanket ‘because I said so’ may work for very young children, Luca appears old enough here to participate in a meaningful conversation and rules and the reasons behind them. Certainly not blaming the mom for his choices to lie and run away, but having this conversation with your kids may be a way to both reflect on your own parenting approach and hear their ideas about what approach might work best for them. It also seems that his mother unintentionally exacerbates Luca’s anxiety with her constant mention of danger, which is something he has to overcome throughout the movie.
- What does Alberto mean when he tells Luca he ‘has a Bruno in his head’? Do you ever feel like you have a Bruno in your head?
Caregiver Note: After Alberto and Luca build their Vespa, Alberto wants to race it down the hillside but Luca is hesitant, worrying about danger. While a healthy dose of caution is always advisable, Luca seems to get hung up easily on his own self-doubts and worry. Alberto tells him when this happens to simply say ‘Silenzio Bruno!’ to quiet the negative voice in his head. Throughout the movie Luca uses this technique as a way to help him find his inner bravery when trying new things or doing something he’s nervous about. While of course we don’t want our children careening down a mountain on a poorly built bike and diving into the ocean as the boys did here, finding strategies for overcoming negative inner dialogue is a great thing! We all have that little voice in our head that sometimes tells us we aren’t good enough or can’t do something. Children who have experienced trauma likely have a great deal more of this than the average child—maybe someone they loved told them they were worthless either in words or in the way they were treated. Giving that negative voice a name and being able to tell it to ‘be quiet’ is a great way of illustrating this concept to children and may be a strategy they can adopt.
- Activity: Silenzio Bruno
Caregiver Note: Going along with the above question, spend time with your child coming up with their own catchphrase to counteract negative self-talk. Maybe they want to use “Silenzio Bruno” like Luca and Alberto or maybe they want to come up with their own name or phrase. Help them choose something that works for them. Then write that phrase on a small index card that can be taped somewhere the child sees regularly: their mirror, inside their backpack or notebook, etc. They can decorate the card however they like! Make more than one if they feel like they would like more frequent reminders. This way each time they see their card it will be a friendly and subtle reminder to tell that voice of anxiety and self-doubt to back off!
- Why does Luca run away? Do you think this was a good choice?
Caregiver Note: When Luca’s parents find out he has been sneaking off to the surface to spend time with Alberto they get angry and concerned about him. His mom arranges for him to go and live with his uncle who lives in the Deep Ocean. This frightens Luca both because of the location he’s being forced to move to and the fact that it will mean never seeing his friend again. This situation may feel familiar for children who have been through foster care. They were removed from living with their parents and sent somewhere strange and unfamiliar, often being forced to leave behind their siblings or friends. Luca’s mom tells him it’s to ‘keep him safe’ which is often the reason given to children when they are removed. And while this is true, it doesn’t help the situation feel any less stressful or upsetting. Many will likely sympathize with Luca’s choice to run away. This can be a great opening for a conversation about your child’s own similar experiences and also discuss ways in which his parents might have been able to make the transition easier on him, and the ways you could help make their transition easier. Maybe there’s a way to stay in touch with siblings or friends from their previous home. Or maybe it’s cooking a favorite meal they used to eat or something else that reminds them of ‘home’.
- When Alberto and Luca first meet Giulia she says, ‘I race alone’. How do they end up being such good friends when they initially weren’t sure about each other?
Caregiver Note: While Luca and Alberto initially become friends very quickly, it takes longer with Giulia. They end up uniting over a shared cause—they all want to win the triathlon and are also united against a common enemy, the town bully Ercole and his gang. As they spend time together then end up all growing into close friends and Giulia even invites them to stay with her and her father. Foster and Adoptive children often struggle to make friends. This is due in part to the fact that they have likely moved homes multiple times. Additionally, as a result of trauma children may have challenging behaviors or difficulty understanding social cues. And depending on the abuse or neglect they might have experienced, they may not have had healthy relationships modeled for them so they don’t have an understanding of how to form healthy relationships of their own. This question can be a way to start a conversation about how to make friends and nurture those friendships. Shared interests can be one of the easiest ways to do so. Maybe there is a club, team, or activity your child(ren) can join that will allow them to meet other kids that share goals or interests with them, like this trio does with their triathlon team.
- Which of the three friends do you identify with the most? Why?
Caregiver Note: Each of the three friends (Luca, Alberto, and Giulia) bring their own unique personalities and struggles to their friendship. Talking about which of them your child most identifies with may offer a lot of insight as to what they might be struggling with. Luca has a lot of anxiety about trying new things. Alberto is guarded and still hurt from being abandoned by his father and being alone for so long. Giulia enjoys school and reading and is made fun of by the other children for being different. She also mentions that her mom thinks she’s “a bit much”. All of these issues are things our kiddos might be struggling with so in talking about the characters’ personalities and challenges it can be a safer way to discuss their own.
- Is Giulia’s father a good caregiver? Why or why not?
Caregiver Note: Mr. Marcovaldo (Giulia’s father) is an exemplary caregiver. When Luca and Alberto come home with Giulia the father takes them in without a question, despite their somewhat strange behavior. He never once asks questions but provides them with food and shelter and even hires them to help with his fishing business when they need to earn money for the race. He quietly accepts them and treats them like family because they are friends with his daughter. When Alberto runs away, he immediately goes out to look for him, even though it means missing dinner. When Luca says he doesn’t think Alberto wants to be found Mr. Marcovaldo responds that he’s going to go anyway ‘just in case’. When everyone is calling Luca and Alberto monsters after we see they’re sea creatures Massimo stands up for them without a second thought. He even takes Alberto in at the end when Luca and Giulia go away to school. This is a great opportunity to have a conversation about what qualities make a good caregiver and how you can best be supportive of them.
- Why do you think Alberto starts being so mean to Luca? What would have been a better way for him to handle his feelings of jealousy?
Caregiver Note: Initially it’s just Luca and Alberto, a pair of best friends ready to take on the world and have adventures together. Then they meet Giulia and she is added to the group of friends. At first everything is fine but Alberto notices that Luca and Giulia are growing closer due to their shared interest in books and learning. He grows jealous, feeling left out and starts acting out, saying and doing mean things. Eventually he fights with Luca and ends up running away. Luca finds him but Alberto pushes him away. The pair does eventually make up and Alberto realizes that just because he and his friend have different interests and their paths might go different directions that doesn’t make their friendship any less. This can be an opportunity to talk with children about their own experiences with jealousy and strategies for handling it if it comes up in the future—such as talking about their feelings instead of acting out.
- While in the human world Luca and Alberto have to live in a constant state of worry that someone might discover who they really are. How do you think this affects them? Have you ever felt like that?
Caregiver Note: We all have parts of ourselves we hide from others, parts that we think will make others reject us if they were to find out who we really are. This is especially true for youth who have experienced trauma. Many do not wish for others to find out they are in foster care and put a lot of energy into hiding this. Other examples could be their sexual identity, socioeconomic status, religion or a whole host of other things. Luca and Alberto are in a constant state of anxiety worrying about being discovered and utilize a tremendous amount of energy to hide their true selves from everyone. Talking about their struggles might be a great way for youth to open up about their own similar struggles and how they feel when they have to hide parts of themselves vs. when they can relax and be themselves.
- At the end of the movie Alberto gives Luca a train ticket to go away to school with Giulia. Why do you think he made this decision? How do you think it made him feel to say goodbye to his friend?
Caregiver Note: Sometimes we have to leave those we love, but it’s okay. Luca needed to go to school and learn and explore his passions. And Alberto needed stability and a family after being alone for so long. While this is a very emotional scene it’s also a great example of a healthy goodbye. We see Alberto grow past his jealousy and recognize that just because he and Luca had different interests and their paths are going to go separate ways for a time, it doesn’t mean they mean any less to one another. This can be a great learning opportunity to discuss healthy goodbyes with youth and the idea that just because someone might not always be with them physically, it doesn’t make those bonds any less meaningful or important.
About the Author: Jenn Ehlers
Jenn is a central Virginia native who received her BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2012. Since then she has worked for a local mental health agency and the Department of Social Services in various capacities and has been involved in her community’s efforts to create a Trauma Informed Network. Currently Jenn works in vocational rehab and mentors youth in foster care. When she isn’t working, Jenn enjoys writing stories, anything and everything Harry Potter, and spending time with her niece and nephew.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.