The Black Balloon Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 8, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
December 20, 2008
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!
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
½ October 21, 2010
What a great film. Superb acting! It felt as though I was seeing this difficult situation from an insiders point of view.
Super Reviewer
½ August 21, 2009
Luke Ford, Rhys Wakefield, Toni Collette, Gemma Ward, Erik Thomson

DIRECTED BY: Elissa Down

Thomas and his family move to a new home where he starts at a new school. All he wants to do is to fit in, but when his pregnant mother has to take things easy, he is put in charge of his autistic older brother, Charlie. Thomas, with the help of his new girlfriend, Jackie, then faces his biggest challenge yet. Charlie's unusual antics take Thomas on an emotional journey that causes pent-up frustrations towards his brother to pour out.

Such a beautiful, honest, and emotional film. It has extremely good acting. Luke Ford is amazingly good in this movie along with Rhys Wakefield. Toni Collette gave a great performance as well. The story is a real honest look at a family with an autistic son and brother. The struggles the family go through, the anger, and the love they have for each other. It also shows the ignorance people have towards autistic people. They don't understand it, so they act out and make fun of it. The things they do to the girl on the bus absolutely disgusted me. Some things are hard to watch and others you feel the embarrassment for Thomas. It is a really good film and its not all serious. There is comic relief as well. Hope more see it.
Super Reviewer
½ May 26, 2009
I liked this film. I liked it a lot. I found it unfortunate that there were some aspects that prevented me from loving it. Wakefield is fabulous as a young man trying to cope in a family where his autistic brother takes up most of the attention. After all it must be hard to have a normal life when every time you have a girl over your brother rubs poo on the carpet or masturbates whilst looking at her. It's at such extremes that through a life of constant moving (his father is in the army) and his brother's needs, Wakefield hasn't even learned to swim that well. He just about stays afloat, the perfect visual image to sum up his character. The reason I failed to love this movie is that Wakefield was never allowed to get THAT angry. Sure he beats his brother pretty hard in one scene, but soon he's apologetic and forgiven. Best of all in this film is Thomson as the father, he manages to get the right amount of frustration and genuine love. His outburst at his son in the supermarket and at the woman next door for complaining to the authorities is probably close to the real complexities of dealing with autism in the family. The film also ends too damn cinematically. In Little Miss Sunshine style Wakefield must dance with his brother in the "spastic" school play to save his brothers embarrassment. It's sweet, but very corny.
Super Reviewer
½ March 29, 2009
This is a heart-warming tale that deftly weaves comedy and drama together like What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Luke Ford make an excellent performance as an autistic older brother like Leonardo DiCaprio in 1993 movie. And I was surprised Toni Collette used Auslan to communicate with her older autistic son - very impressive and understanding clearly for Australian Deafies including me.
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2010
Charlie is played by Luke Ford who gives a wonderful performance. Rhys Wakefield and Gemma Ward are great too. The winner of this film is Toni Collete whose acting through the turmoil is completely convincing. The acting together with a strong script really make this a movie worth seeing. Written and directed by Elissa Down, who has two autistic brothers in real life, obviously brings her experiences to bear and is innately able to bring pressure to this trouble torn family while bringing out some very emotional love. A beautiful, honest, and emotional film. It fearlessly reaches outside the box and sets up a tug-of-war between normalcy and idiosyncrasy. I recommend to all.
Super Reviewer
December 10, 2008
Fabulous, fabulous movie. A must see for anyone.
It's about the effects of autism, not only on the one afflicted, but those that come in contact with it. The movie is a good mix of drama and comedy, as well as depressing and heartwarming.
Super Reviewer
½ September 17, 2008
For an Australian film, The Black Balloon was triumphant in every respect. As always, Toni Collette was amazing, but the acting was top notch all around. Thomas could so easily have been an unlikeable character, but I really sympathised with him and, to some extent, could identify with what he was going through - Rhys Wakefield did a great job. For me, most scenes were challenging to watch, but essentially they had to be for the film to properly take you on the journey. One scene in particular, Thomas' birthday party dinner, was especially gut-wrenching. But it was the final two scenes that really pleased me - together they formed the perfect ending to the film. And I have to mention the cinematography, because it was so refreshing to see something shot with rich, saturated colours, rather than something tonally awash with drab greys as seems to be the trend these days with Australian films. Overall, perhaps the best Australian film this year.
½ September 8, 2012
i've seen 'the white balloon' and 'the red balloon' and other than being colors 4 balloons this quiet drama from down under is nothing like either of the two.
Super Reviewer
August 10, 2010
Ive never known or had to deal with somebody that has autism so I cant relate but I do know I loved this movie & Id definitely recommend anybody to go see it
January 5, 2011
This is one of the sweetest movies I've ever seen, if not the sweetest. Like other films that I've seen from our southern cousins, this one is understated, superbly directed, and brilliantly cast. There's not a single misstep anywhere in this film and it's 97 minutes passes too quickly.
Rhys Wakefield as the younger brother Thomas of the autistic elder child Charlie is a wonder. Gemma Ward is not only beautiful, but her acting skills are top shelf. And Luke Ford's Charlie was impeccably played.
I don't shed tears for a whole lot of celluloid, but I did for this film. The singular low fight scene was a horror to watch and you could feel it in your stomach. The taunting, courtesy of the schoolyard bullies, was gut wrenching to watch, and you could just imagine the terror that Charlie felt as well as the anger of his younger protector Thomas.
But the kiss in the army quonset shelter on the obstacle course was uplifting, as was virtually every scene with Gemma Ward in it. She made this film soar.
I confess to not having seen her in anything before this, but I'll surely look for her in the future. I read that she models, and you can certainly see why, but I implore her to continue acting too, for she's a natural talent.
Toni Collette was the forgiving, loving and kind mother, always there to cheer Charlie on, but there when Thomas needed her understanding, too. Erik Thomson as Simon the dad did a great job as well, he also supportive of both of his sons, both of whom he was proud.
Elissa Down, the director, must have loosed the reins and let these actors fly before the wind, but whatever her skill was that put this fine work together, it produced a beautiful result.
'The Black Balloon' is a beautiful, finely crafted film; not lavish in its production, just in its talent.
½ November 2, 2010
I definitely am glad I found the movie to watch; however; it is not one to watch if you are only interested in eye and ear candy.
Makes one think about how we cope when put in bad situations not always of our own making.
Super Reviewer
½ March 30, 2008
My oldest sister is mentally slow, although not nearly as bad as Charlie. Still, I couldn't help but identify with how Thomas felt!
½ June 12, 2010
I really liked this movie, a lot. I really felt for Thomas. Everyone was so concerned about Charlie but my heart goes out to Thomas. I guess I'm going to hell for saying this and feeling this way, but I'd definitely feel sorry for myself if I had to deal with a sibling like Charlie...
½ December 20, 2009
Overall good film. Luke Ford's (Thomas's brother's) acting was really good. Honestly, I wasnt able to guess if he was really Autistic or not cause he played his part that well. Im sure it must have been frustrating for Thomas but sheesh, he needs to grow up. At the end it was almost like Thomas didnt learn anything but at least he matured a little bit. Worth watching.
December 23, 2008
Good storyline and a very moving movie. I felt pretty sad for the whole family and the problems having a disabled child could bring. A movie worth watching.
January 9, 2015
A stunning coming-of-age film from director Elissa Down in which fifteen-year-old Thomas Mollison (a flawless Rhys Wakefield) must settle into a new home and school. The backdrop to this is made up of Thomas' family, an assortment of quirky characters that entail his heavily pregnant mother Maggie (the always outstanding Toni Collette) and father Simon (a wonderful turn from Erik Thomson), who seemingly takes advice from his teddy bear. But adding the most anxiety to Thomas' existence is his older brother, Charlie (a career-defining Luke Ford); he's autistic and has Attention Deficit Disorder. Needless to say, the household is filled with tension, and like a balloon about to pop, this tension is felt by the viewer. It's moments such as these that the cast rise to the occasion and it's under Down's taught direction that 'The Black Balloon' really comes together. Counteracting moments of intensity is the tender blossoming romance between Thomas and the guileless Jackie (the lovely Gemma Ward), his classmate and fellow lifesaver-in-training.

Overall, the structure of the piece is textbook stuff and it ends in a way that an audience who invests in such a story deserves, but the true strength of 'The Black Balloon' is that it is a testament to the uncompromising power of unconditional parental love and the bond between siblings. Charlie's school performance also presents the aesthetic similarities between those with and without autism; a powerful message presented with childlike innocence. Quite simply, a gem of a coming-of-age story that shines brighter than most of its contemporaries.
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