The Black Balloon

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 41


Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,682
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Movie Info

When Thomas and his family move to a new home and he has to start at a new school, all he wants is to fit in. When his pregnant mother has to take things easy, his father Simon puts him in charge of his autistic older brother Charlie. Thomas, with the help of his new girlfriend Jackie, faces his biggest challenge yet. Charlie's unusual antics take Thomas on an emotional journey that causes his pent-up frustrations about his brother to pour out - in a story that is funny, confronting, and ultimately heart-warming. "The Black Balloon" is a story about fitting in, discovering love and accepting your family.


Luke Ford
as Charlie Mollison
Rhys Wakefield
as Thomas Mollison
Toni Collette
as Maggie Mollison
Gemma Ward
as Jackie Masters
Erik Thomson
as Simon Mollison

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Critic Reviews for The Black Balloon

All Critics (41) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (6)

  • 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.

    May 1, 2009 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Apr 17, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Apr 10, 2009 | Rating: 3/4
  • The Black Balloon establishes this family with a delicate mixture of tenderness and pain.

    Apr 10, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Apr 2, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

    Ted Fry

    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.

    Apr 2, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Black Balloon

  • May 08, 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.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Nov 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.
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 21, 2010
    What a great film. Superb acting! It felt as though I was seeing this difficult situation from an insiders point of view.
    Thomas J Super Reviewer
  • Aug 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
    Brody M Super Reviewer

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