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Io Capitano

Farhad Dalal
Farhad Dalal
4 Star popcorn reviewss


It is a Tuesday and I just thought of breaking the pattern of reviewing the content from the previous weekend. And so while I have Captain Miller in my pipeline, I thought of getting back to my foreign film list for the Academy Awards. With that, I finished watching the film Io Capitano(also titled Me Captain) which is Italy’s Official Entry to the Academy Awards. Now recently, I had watched the Hindi film Dunki that catered to the subject of illegal migration to the UK. While the subject itself was novel for a Hindi speaking audience, the film failed to capture the atrocities of the Odyssey undergone by its characters, a representation of so many refugees who leave their home in order to search for a better life elsewhere, only to either be dead on the way or so poor once they reach the destination that there is no turning around from there(in most cases). Based on this concept, I was quite looking forward to watching Io Capitano, does it manage to impress, let’s find out.

Story & Screenplay

Io Capitano follows the story of two young boys who decide to leave their hometown Dakar in Senegal for better pastures in Europe. But seldom did they estimate their hardships along the way. The story here is heartfelt while also being painstaking with the manner in which the illegal immigration process was showcased. It was gut-wrenching and raw, an aspect that was sanitized or rather barely touched upon in Dunki. The screenplay standing at a little under 2 hours is crisp and taut while not wasting any time in diverting from the topic in hand. In fact, the focus here is on the journey of the two boys that makes for an intriguing and heartfelt watch. 

The drama begins with the introduction of the protagonist who resides with his mother and little sister in the poverty stricken land of Dakar in Senegal. The culture of the African state is nicely captured in a balanced manner wherein there is an undertone of melancholy even amidst the celebrations while highlighting the inherent poverty angle too. The protagonist, all of 16 years of age is carefree and frivolous while being oblivious of the big bad world out there, wanting tongo to Europe for a better life. He is persuaded by his cousin much to the dismay of his mother who warns him against it. Yet, the fate of the boys changes drastically after yhey decide to elope from their homes in a trail to Europe that is filled with harships and harsh realities of today’s times. 

The proceedings are engaging and engrossing as you wait with bated breath on the things that would transpire in the lives of the two boys on the journey. It is almost pain-staking to witness the money crunch issue being just the tip of the iceburg while the duo witness long strolls in the desert heat as bodies begin to pile up around them. The stakes are raised even further when one of the two is arrested thus leaving the other one almost secluded while he quietly reminisces the good times that he shared with his mother. And that scene was heartbreaking particularly because you also get a glimpse of his character, trying to save an elderly woman in the desert even as others walk past him. You are made aware of the softness in his heart which was previously preceded by an element of being carefree. What’s worse is that there is also a track of the protagonist being sold in a slave market while he is fighting with the reality of being separated with his cousin brother. 

There are a couple of convenient turns that the writers opt for but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the tone of the drama remains consistent throughout. There is a genuine fear of uncertainty to the drama even when the two protagonists unite, and while the larger goal remains of reaching Europe. The entire final act is dedicated to the sea journey is scary with the sole responsibility being on the 16 year old to navigate the folks to safety. And this is where I felt that the writing missed an opportunity with its ending. Atleast 15 odd minutes could have been dedicated towards the stand of EU on the refugee crisis instead of ending on a slightly polished note but taking nothing away from the drama which is solid with its impact and writing overall.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are conversational but highlight the plight of the characters on the journey pretty well. The BGM subtly elevates the drama at various junctures of the narrative. The cinematography capturing wide frames of the desert and other landscapes(like the sea) was symbolic of hope fast fading out from the lives of the characters. The frames are beautiful but reek of melancholy. The editing is crisp and taut while never allowing the drama to get bogged down in any way. Director Matteo Garrone does an impressive job in highlighting the hardships of the ‘Dunki’ route and the cost of lives that actually stands for nothing at the end. And his approach is poetic in depicting pain which may not be in your face but it manages you leave a lingering feeling at the end wherein I was curious to know on what happens next while fearing the worst. And that for me was the director’s victory.


The performances are pretty impressive here. Issaka Sawadogo as Martin is really affable and delivers a heartfelt performance majorly due to his kindness that shines through. Moustapha Fall as Mousa is incredibly good and he does so well in internalizing his emotions in his act. Seydou Sarr as Seydou is simply brilliant in every sense of the word. He lets his expressions and eyes do the talking, both of which paint a heartbreaking picture of melancholy and pain that is enough to shatter you to pieces. But even in this space, he doesn’t let go of his innocence that makes him all the more endearing and sincere. 


Italy’s Official Entry to the Academy Awards this year, Io Capitano is a heartfelt Odyssey of pain and struggle that makes for a heartbreaking watch. This is everything that ‘Dunki’ ought to have been but wasn’t unfortunately. Highly Recommended from my end.

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