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The Black Balloon (2008)


Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 42
Fresh: 37
Rotten: 5

Critics Consensus: A tender and witty portrayal of a family coping with autism, The Black Balloon is heartfelt without being schmaltzy or moralizing.

Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 18
Fresh: 17
Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: A tender and witty portrayal of a family coping with autism, The Black Balloon is heartfelt without being schmaltzy or moralizing.


Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 4,524


Movie Info

An adolescent boy from a most idiosyncratic family attempts to adjust to his new neighborhood as his 16th birthday looms on the horizon in this family drama from director Elissa Down. Thomas is about to turn 16, and as if adjusting to a new neighborhood, a new school, and new friends isn't enough for a teenage boy to contend with, his family is about as unpredictable as they come. His autistic older brother, Charlie, suffers from ADD, and attends a special school on the days that he actually … More

PG-13 (for some sexual content, a scene of violence, and brief strong language)
Directed By:
Written By:
Elissa Down , Jimmy Jack
In Theaters:
Mar 23, 2010
NeoClassics Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Black Balloon

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (5) | DVD (1)

Thomas and Jackie's friendship, blossoming into a chaste romance, is the dramatic engine that powers The Black Balloon, but it's far from the most important relationship in the film.

Full Review… | May 1, 2009
Washington Post
Top Critic

The film's vision is neither a grim wallow nor falsely cheerful. It's compassionate but unblinking, and in the end we can't help but admire the genuine strength of how its characters accept their special challenge.

Full Review… | April 17, 2009
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

At its sharpest Elissa Down's feature directorial debut is guided by intense, rough-edged emotional swings that feel authentically alive, even when the script settles for tidiness.

Full Review… | April 10, 2009
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

The Black Balloon establishes this family with a delicate mixture of tenderness and pain.

Full Review… | April 10, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

There are wrenching scenes that are brutally stark, yet there remains a steady sense of calm that is touching and sensitive without ever turning sentimental.

Full Review… | April 2, 2009
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Structurally and cinematically, The Black Balloon sticks to the coming-of-age basics, but [director] Down has a gift for conveying time and place.

Full Review… | April 2, 2009
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Autism is a subject most filmmakers fear to broach, but not Aussie newcomer Elissa Down, she attacks the issue with honesty and passion.

Full Review… | May 25, 2013
The Patriot Ledger

It's a well-meaning film, marked by Luke Ford's sensitive portrayal of a disabled character. But the main character is bland, imparting the same vibe on the rest of the film.

Full Review… | August 14, 2009

The Black Balloon is neither 'Rain Man' nor 'The Other Sister. This Aussie charmer charts its own course.

Full Review… | May 3, 2009
What Would Toto Watch?

Wakefield anchors the well-paced quieter moments.

Full Review… | April 23, 2009
Boston Phoenix

The Black Balloon is marked by the fiercest bravery you're likely to encounter on screen this year.

Full Review… | April 16, 2009
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A film that mostly skirts artifice and sentimentality for a truer portrait of a family battered and bruised but nowhere near broken.

Full Review… | April 9, 2009
Austin Chronicle

The outlines are broad and obvious, and Thomas such a bore, that The Black Balloon loses air.

Full Review… | April 8, 2009
Arizona Daily Star

It sometimes skirts melodrama territory, but the deep emotions ultimately are real and gratifying. Dependable Toni Collette keeps it grounded, disappearing into her role as the incredibly patient mother.

Full Review… | March 6, 2009

Collette aside, there is no wow factor in The Black Balloon -- just a not-bad story told with better-than-average skill.

Full Review… | March 6, 2009
St. Paul Pioneer Press

It's a film about a supposedly real-world set-up that never feels true, even though the people who made it clearly set out to treat their subject matter and the audience with respect.

Full Review… | March 6, 2009
Movie Retriever

It's brilliant; a beautifully balanced comedy-drama that makes you laugh as much as it makes you cry, sometimes in the same scene.

Full Review… | January 12, 2009
Sunday Times (Australia)

A writer-director portrays life with an autistic brother to heartwarming effect.

Full Review… | January 12, 2009
The Age (Australia)

It's a film that comes from the heart.

Full Review… | January 12, 2009
Sydney Morning Herald

Audience Reviews for The Black Balloon

An Australian household has a full plate and then some with their eldest, who is autistic, and how they live their lives in the face of staunch adversity is the subject of this realistic portrayal of the old Biblical maxim that faith w/o works is dead. Nothing overtly cinematic, but a fine subtle touch by the director here instead. Collette does stand out as the Mom whose presence you feel guiding the family even when offscreen.

Apeneck Fletcher

Super Reviewer

Another decent Australian film. Amazing!
Follows the life of a 15 year old boy and his family, including his autistic brother. I have to admit, I am watching this movie thinking, I couldn't do it! As well as the constant screaming and running around, there is the shit smearing (ugh!).
This is actually quite a sweet little movie and I was impressed with Gemma Ward as an actress. The 90's setting also gives it that something extra. Worth a look!

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


Interesting, and depressing, but in no way "compelling" as the "recent reviews" would indicate. A decent film, but not great. The two boys were truly outstanding in their roles, however the scene of the musical at the autistic school was a real stretch. Some very funny laugh out loud scenes, but not enough everything else to make me really like this movie.

Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer


What a great film. Superb acting! It felt as though I was seeing this difficult situation from an insiders point of view.

Thomas Johnston

Super Reviewer

The Black Balloon Quotes

He's your brother!
Thomas Mollison:
He's a freak!
[slaps Thomas in the face] Your brother will never be able to do the things you will. He'll never go to work or start a family, so we have to look after him. He's staying with us forever.
– Submitted by Clayton R (2 years ago)
Thomas Mollison:
You've just pissed all over my leg, haven't you?
– Submitted by Clayton R (2 years ago)
Thomas Mollison:
Well, maybe if you were to stop signing, he might start talking.
– Submitted by Clayton R (2 years ago)

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