Captain Johnno is a telemovie from the Australian Touch the Sun series. The film is quite famous in Australia and in the 1988 won the International Emmy Award.
Its main protagonist is the partly deaf 10 year old Johnno. He lives with his family in a small fishing town. His sisters help him at school and keep the local bullies away from him.
Johnno’s life changes when his sister has to depart to a boarding school. Johnno fears that he won’t be able to manage without her and tries to convince his parents not let her go or to let him go with her.
He doesn’t yet know that they are considering sending him to a special school for people with hearing disabilities. When he finds out, he runs away and sails to a nearby island where he plans to live a Robinson Crusoe style life away from the complex problems of society.
This film raises a number of issues about family life and it’s conflicts, responsibilities and adjustments. In addition there are 3 main characters relationships which one should pay attention to as they are important for the plot development. The first one is between Johnno and his sisters. She is there for him, but one day has to leave and this distresses him. Their parting scene with her crying in the back seat of the bus and him running after her is one of the most emotional cinema scenes I have ever seen.
The second important relationship is the friendship of Johnno and an Italian immigrant, Tony who is a newcomer to Australia and can not speak English well. They form a strong bond because in a way, they are both outsiders and the object of ridicule by others. Tony is glad to have a friend like Johnno, he listens to the boy and respects him for who he is.
The third relationship viewers should focus on is the one between Johnno and his father. While it is clear that the parent’s love their son, his father, in my opinion behaved like a moron. He did not even know his son and in a way the viewer could sense his shame from Johnno’s disability. He never listens to what his son has to say or tries to understand what he means if deafness has anything to do with Johnno’s thinking abilities. Even if at the end of the film his father reconsiders his attitude towards his son, I myself could never completely forgive him. But I guess that’s something you would have to see and judge for yourself .
The acting in the film is quite good. Damien Walters is in the role of Johnno and delivered a performance which made me wonder how is it possible to portray a deaf boy so realistically. I later found out that the young actor is deaf himself. Another leaving a large impression on me was the acting abilities of Joe Petruzzi in the role of the Italian immigrant.
Overall I liked the film. It has many life lessons both for its characters and its viewers. The film is quite emotional and I think that many of the fans of the coming of age genre would appreciate it. A similar flick is the British film Dear Frankie which I also recommend.
Several video clips are available at the Australian Screen`s web site .