“Luzzu” is director Alex Camilleri’s feature-length debut and is an impressive one at that. “Luzzu” tells the story of Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna), who is a husband and father trying to make right for his young child, who has health issues.
Jesmark is like any father; he will do every single thing he can for his child. His home life leaves some to be desired; there is tension between him and his wife, Denise (Michela Farrugia), including the disapproving passive-aggressive comments coming from her mother, Carmen (Frida Cauchi). Impressively enough, this is the first acting credit for both leads Jesmark Scicluna and Michela Farrugia. Their relationship is strained, and the financial issues only put more pressure on them.
In all fairness, Carmen’s perception of Jesmark is somewhat fair. It could appear as though he prioritizes himself over his family by spending every day out on the water. In actuality, we know that Jesmark’s line of work is difficult, but it is what he loves. He is repeatedly being screwed over when selling his catches, which leads him to begin working in the black market of Malta’s fishing industry.
This is where we could have explored even more of Jesmark. We see early on that he is willing to sell fish that are illegal to sell due to being out of season. When he takes a job to do exactly that, we learn that the process includes going out late at night and finding the markers that other fishers leave out to signify an out-of-season catch. They then pack it up and bring it back to the boss who sells it to restaurants and such for a profit. Exploring this black market further would have been interesting, though it is understandable that director Camilleri wanted to focus more on the relationship between Jesmark and Denise, especially with a 95-minute runtime.
“Luzzu” has story beats that are reminiscent of “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” “CODA,” and “Blue Bayou.” Ultimately, Jesmark is left with a choice, and he has to give up something that means a lot to him for the greater good (that being his family). There is a maturation process that occurs during “Luzzu,” and it is like a child growing into an adult and beginning to step away from video games.
Hats off to Alex Camilleri, who clearly has an eye for directing. Not only did he get some beautiful shots of the ocean, but he also got intimate performances out of some first-time actors. Hopefully, eyes come to “Luzzu,” as its Sundance premiere was all the way back in January and it will only be opening in a handful of theatres. In the bigger picture of it all, “Luzzu” gives exposure to the country of Malta, a country that is used as a filming location but is barely ever represented. Alex Camilleri can be a pioneer for the country to have more stories on their island represented in Hollywood.