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The Black Balloon

Studio: NeoClassics Films
Directed by: Elissa Down; Written by: Elissa Down and Jimmy the Exploder; Starring: Rhys Wakefield, Gemma Ward, Luke Ford, Erik Thomson and Toni Collette

Dec 10, 2008 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Australia’s The Black Balloon has its heart in the right place. The film observes autism through the eyes of Thomas (Rhys Wakefield), a 15-year-old boy who struggles to accept his older brother Charlie’s (Luke Ford) disability, at an age when adolescents’ own self-consciousness becomes magnified. Based on writer-director Elissa Down’s own experiences growing up with an autistic younger brother,The Black Balloon is a sensitive, sometimes humorous, film that’s suited for young adults but undermined by predictability and an inability to reach its dramatic boiling point coherently.

Thomas has just moved into a new neighborhood because his father (Erik Thomson), who works for the army, has been assigned to a nearby base. His mother (Toni Collette) is pregnant and requires extra attention and assistance from him in attending to Charlie’s needs. Thomas is attempting to earn a lifesaving badge at his new school, and he has eyes for fellow swim student Jackie (cover model Gemma Ward), but he’s a novice swimmer. This, along with his brother’s rascality, lead to some comical moments of embarrassment, but Jackie is sympathetic to Thomas’ trials and conveniently returns his interest. Thomas is a handsome kid, but it’s not explained why a girl who looks like Gemma Ward has no boyfriend. Ward, not surprisingly, has an expressive face, but she is not comfortable with dialogue, and a future in films doesn’t look promising at this stage. As Thomas and Jackie’s friendship blooms, Thomas allows Charlie’s condition and behavior to weigh on him, which incites anger toward his brother. Although Thomas’ mounting frustration is understandable, the timing of his meltdown in the film feels contrived. 15-year-olds are prone to acts of imprudence, of course, but if a girl that looks like Gemma Ward wants to join your family to celebrate your 16th birthday, then, dude, you need to chill.

The Black Balloon has won a number of international film festival awards, including a Crystal Bear in the Berlin Film Festival’s Generation 14plus (young adult) category. Down has a good eye and creates inviting, romantic atmospheres with visual details—watch the opening title sequence closely—and the performances generally feel honest. Although the film’s most intense scene slips away from Down, there’s an emotionally unsettling sequence, where Charlie has an episode in a market, which illustrates the challenge of living with an autistic family member. Sometimes Charlie’s impulsiveness adds levity to the film, and it becomes a slippery slope distinguishing the seriousness of Charlie’s illness from lighthearted goofiness, but this is an earnest film about a teenager faced with increasing adult concerns and responsibility. 13- to 17-year-olds would stand to gain more from The Black Balloon than Twilight.

www.theblackballoon.us.com
www.theblackballoonmovie.com

Author rating: 5/10

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lily
March 21st 2010
12:47pm

I have seen this movie today :P ...felt sorry for thomas…

Nausicrate
January 10th 2011
1:19pm

of course, but if a girl that looks like Gemma Ward wants to join your family to celebrate your 16th birthday, then, dude, you need to chill.LOL.Check out Rolex Prices

Nausicrate
January 10th 2011
1:20pm

of course, but if a girl that looks like Gemma Ward wants to join your family to celebrate your 16th birthday, then, dude, you need to chill.LOL.Check out “Rolex Prices