Netflix Update No. 90: “And Your Name is Jonah”

March 2, 2014

JEFFREY BRAVIN

JEFFREY BRAVIN

I had a phone conversation with Sally Struthers a few years ago when she was touring with a production of Annie.The fact that she was touring with that show was a reflection of an experience that she and may other actors have had: she appeared in a hit television series and never quite matched that in her later career. It’s no disgrace; it has happened to many others through no fault of theirs. It’s just the nature of the television industry.

Sally Struthers certainly isn’t absent from television because she isn’t a good actress.We were reminded of that the other night when we watched a 1979 Hallmark movie, And Your Name is Jonah, in which she plays a woman whose deaf son has been misdiagnosed as mentally handicapped.When the mistake is discovered the boy is released from the institution he has been living in. But his dad, although he tries, cannot understand the boy’s needs, and the marriage is strained to the breaking point.

SALLY STRUTHERS

SALLY STRUTHERS

Sally Struthers gave a strong performance as a loving mother who will not be diverted from her mission to help her son live as a member of the community. Jonah was played with great effect by nine-year-old Jeffrey Bravin, who was the fourth generation of his family to be born deaf. He is now an administrator at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Connecticut. He and his wife have two children who, I believe, are hearing. Titos Vandis is a sympathetic figure as Jonah’s grandfather, who sells produce in an open-air market.

Jonah - 5

This movie touches on sensitive issues related to deafness, including the question of whether deaf people should rely on sign language or learn to lip read and speak. I was ignorant of that issue until I read Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf, which was published in 1989 by the neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. This movie also treats the overarching theme of the need and right of deaf people to be treated not as pitiable victims but as the whole human beings they are.

Jonah - 4

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4 Responses to “Netflix Update No. 90: “And Your Name is Jonah””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    I have a friend who became totally deaf as an adult, and who now is learning to hear again after cochlear implants. It’s been amazing to hear her observations about the entire process, including her occasional longings to be back in the world of the deaf. Apparently we live in quite a noisy world.

    Another fascinating thing I didn’t know is that with her quite well-developed ability to lip read, she can “hear” dialects. She nearly bowled over one of her new work colleagues when she asked, “How long ago did you move here to South Carolina from the New York area?”

    • charlespaolino Says:

      Yes, silence is underrated, as the contemplatives tell us. I have heard that people who read lips well can distinguish pronunciation, but I never thought of that in terms of dialect. Fascinating.

  2. Louis caruso Says:

    Paolino finally getting your blogs

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