Johnny has a passion for the movies and a dream of becoming a filmmaker. In Dublin in the 1950s, this seems impossible, especially when he is forced to leave school. However, he manages to attract several mentors with charm and defeat and win over his enemies with ingenuity. The world which Johnny lives in - that of movie plots - is so romantic and safe that it acts as a shield for the rest of the sorely stressed family. His telling of the movie plots to his family turns into therapy for them. The clear-cut morality of "movieland" seems to be the only sure thing in their world of poverty, deceit and betrayal. His relationship with the beautiful daughter of a rich Major is just one of the complications which conspire against him finishing his school and learning how to get involved in film-making.