Title: The Story of Luke

Director: Alonso Mayo

Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Cary Elwes, Kristin Bauer, Seth Green, Tyler Stentiford, Mackenzie Munro, Kenneth Welsh, Sabryn Rock

A winning little dramedy hung chiefly on the solid peg of Lou Taylor Pucci’s lead performance, “The Story of Luke” offers up an experiential snapshot of adult autism without descending into cloying sentimentality or didactic moralizing. Written and helmed by first-time feature director Alonso Mayo — and rooted in childhood experiences of watching his mother oversee an educational center for kids and adults with developmental delays — the movie is mostly a comedy, but one that largely eschews outlandishness and never drifts too far from recognizable human feeling.

When his grandmother dies and his senile grandfather (Kenneth Welsh) is no longer able to care for him, 25-year-old Luke (Pucci) is taken in by his Uncle Paul and Aunt Cindy (Cary Elwes and Kristin Bauer), in a move that further stresses their already strained marriage. His cousins (Tyler Stentiford, Mackenzie Munro) are fairly welcoming, but the autistic Luke is thrown by all the sudden change. He knows he needs to grow up (“I can’t watch cooking shows for the rest of my life — I want to screw”), but he’s uncertain of how.

Taking very literally some advice from his grandfather (“Get a job, find a girl that doesn’t nag and likes to travel”), Luke heads to a temp agency and quickly becomes enamored with Maria (Sabryn Rock) — or more specifically, her breasts. Placed in the mailroom at a nondescript company, Luke makes an unlikely friend in the boss’ son, the virulently antisocial Zack (Seth Green), who wraps up an angry initial encounter with the admonition, “To the dungeon, half-wit!” Zack is also not “neuro-typical,” but he comes around to Luke’s attention to detail, and so Zack decides to share his special proprietary invention — a computer program that reads and responds to the facial expressions of those with autistic-spectrum disorders (“I programmed her to be a bitch because that’s what you’re up against”), in order to help coach and nudge them toward “normal.” Nominal hijinks ensue, of course, as Luke screws up the courage to ask out Maria, but the movie also spends an equal amount of time showing both Luke and his “new” family feeling their way through a grander socialization with one another.

With his fey, sing-song voice and buttoned-up fashion, Pucci delivers an indelible performance that doesn’t cheat on the anxiety Luke feels — which swells considerably when considering the abandonment of his mother. If Green, angry and wound up, plays much more of a type, their interactions are still amusing, and give “The Story of Luke” a fresh, off-kilter comedic vibe that one doesn’t expect to see in a story that could easily be a lot more staid, and typically plotted.

Some may scoff at this mixture of tones, but since Mayo is resolutely true to Luke’s wobbly steps toward independence, it mostly works. Though it’s not as much of a relationship two-hander, “The Story of Luke” bears some characteristics in common with Max Mayer’s “Adam,” with Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne. Even though that film took a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome as its protagonist, both movies are robustly invested in an exploration of the often bewildering gaps in social recognition and body language between “NTs,” or neuro-typicals, and those with less functional social skill sets. An engaging character study about a differently-wired guy learning to navigate the already choppy waters of young adulthood, “The Story of Luke” is a sweetnaturedly pleasant and optimistic coming-of-age tale that highlights much that we share, amidst all our differences.

NOTE: “The Story of Luke” opens in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall, but in addition to its nationwide theatrical engagements the film is also available on VOD. For more information, visit its website, at www.TheStoryOfLuke.com.

Technical: C+

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B

Written by: Brent Simon

The Story of Luke Movie Review

By Brent Simon

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International, Newsweek Japan, Magill's Cinema Annual, and many other outlets. He cannot abide a world without U2 and tacos.

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