The Black Balloon - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Black Balloon Reviews

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February 7, 2017
Set in 1992, this film follows 15 year-old Thomas (Wakefield) who is ashamed and embarrased by his autistic older brother, Charlie (Ford). Having just moved to a new area and school, he meets Jackie (Ward), who surprises him by not letting Charlie's condition come between them.
½ January 26, 2017
stupid direction. rewarding low self esteem and low logic
November 8, 2016
Very good well acted movie really enjoyed this
March 13, 2016
An insight into families with a disabled person trying their best to live normal lives. Tad depressing but well made with some good acting!
½ June 15, 2015
Okay firstly the main character does some really awful and disgusting things in this film. Yet despite this everyone in the film forgives him with no explanations as to why, and the film itself doesn't even focus on how what he has done is absolutely disgusting. It's like he cried a bit, whatever lets get back to being cute. Then the love story is forced in and feels lazy. She likes him cause he stared at her at the pool, seriously they don't even talk that much but she likes him cause reasons. Moreover, the romantic pair have no chemistry they're just bland and dull. In addition, the main character changes motivations because the script said so, not because of how he felt or anything. The script just says when he's meant to be an asshole and when he's not. There was no exploration into his mental state about how dealing with his brother is tough and what he does to him. Plus the film is full of stereotypical characters, because bully's are mean to him cause he's new and cause his brother has autism, there's no effort into any of this they're just mean because the script said so. The whole time this main character gets everything he wants and doesn't suffer any consequences his family are there for him the girl still likes him and the brother and him get along. It's not real, it felt too Hollywood, I just wished it focused on the drama of the issue rather then trying to be funny at the same time.
January 25, 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.
October 19, 2014
All in all, the kid done well
September 24, 2014
My favorite movie thats for sure!
March 5, 2014
really interesting but short :-(......
December 1, 2013
As a sibling of an older sister with autism(that being my only sibling as well.) My story of course is different but LOADS in the film I totally related to. Specially the parts were Thomas hated his brother. Oh and not forgetting pubic traumas, neighbours and poo, can't forget the poo.
July 3, 2013
A realistic take on the issue of autism along with likeable characters and ground breaking direction from Elissa Down.
½ June 3, 2013
relatable, funny, fabulous acting (esp. by Luke Ford), real/believable, heartwarming!!! Surprisingly loved it!
April 11, 2013
i loved it. it was great.
½ March 19, 2013
The Black Balloon is the story about Thomas Mollison, a 15 year old Australian boy with a severely autistic brother of 18, Charlie. The film starts once Thomas and his family move into their new home, where Thomas will have to make new friends and deal with Charlie's strange behaviour. The film focuses less on the plot and more on just showing what life is like for Thomas, there are many scenes that don't serve any purpose to the plot but help to show the problems and struggles of Thomas' life.

I can relate more to this movie then most people because I am only a year older then Thomas and also have a brother with severe autism. The scenes with Charlie are extremely accurate and represent the hardship of autistic family members well. Luke Ford is a brilliant actor and represents autistic people perfectly.

This will not be a problem to most people but I personally found Thomas to be partially unlikable. He's not a terrible person, but he still hasn't come to terms with Charlie's disability and at times wishes that "he were normal". Most people will feel empathy for Thomas, but since I had come to terms with my brother's disability long before I was 15, it seems cruel to me.

The side characters, like Thomas' parents and his love interest Jackie, are great characters. Jackie is the most interesting character of the film. She has a sense of humour and can understand the problems that Thomas and his family go through. She is, for the most part, a very light-hearted and entertaining character, but can be serious when she needs to.

The movie overall handles the subject well as a dramedy. There are some obvious comedy scenes and some obvious dramatic scenes, but there are also scenes which are a strange mix. Sometimes you won't know if you should be laughing or feeling sad, everyone's reaction will be different, and I think that's what makes this film so special. It doesn't tell you how to feel about certain scenes and occurrences, you have to figure it out yourself, which may make you feel uncomfortable, but that's exactly what this film is best at.

Overall, The Black Balloon is a beautiful piece of cinema flawed only by some one-dimensional side characters and one particularly cheesy scene near the end, but the careful direction, great acting and an amazing script is more then enough to make up for it. This is definitely not a film for everybody, it is very confronting, but speaking from true experience, this film is both accurate and brilliant.
March 6, 2013
Such a beautiful film and beautifully directed and acted. A film Australia can be proud of :)
½ February 17, 2013
An unpretentious, lovable film.
½ February 6, 2013
One of the best films of the year so far and definitely one of the best Aussie films I have seen in a long, long time. This is such an achievement for first time filmmaker Elissa Down and as she draws from her own personal experiences as a sibling of autistic brothers the audience is easily sucked into this heart wrenching story. What I love most about this film is it's authentic setting, Australian suburbia in the 80s is captured so innocently and accurately here. The performances are powerful and raw and the scene where Thomas attacks Charlie had me literally holding my breath at the intensity. Toni Collette is as usual a powerhouse on screen. The screenplay skilfully blends the human tragedy and emotions involved with autism alongside some humorous and touching family moments. The Black Balloon touched a raw nerve, made me tight in the chest and laugh out loud. It had an impact on me that I wasn't expecting and is an exceptional Australian film.
December 31, 2012
This has to be one of the most difficult and uncomfortable films I can remember sitting through in a long time. Luke Ford (as the autistic sibling Charlie) and Rhys Wakefield (as his brother Thomas) are simply outstanding, portraying their characters brilliantly. More often than not, this movie is so believable you can feel the pain felt by Charlie's family and you can almost understand the tolerance that must be required to live with an autistic family member. I'm not sure the concert scene at the end was the most fitting climax, however this detracted only slightly from the movie for me personally. I cannot speak highly enough of the actors in this film - they are all remarkable. Surely the best Australian movie of 2008.
½ December 30, 2012
I'm not familiar with autism, but from the scenes I saw I could not bring myself to finish watching this movie: after seeing how autistic Charlie plays with his own poo in his room I realized that I had enough of this stuff.
December 27, 2012
Good movie...
Thomas (Rhys Wakefield) has just started at a new high school. His father (Erik Thomson) serves in the armed forces and the family has to relocate regularly. His brother Charlie (Luke Ford) has severe Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder. He's not able to speak and because he's the size of an adult, caring for him is not easy. At the start of the film we see him grunt with delight as he tramples a newly-bought carton of eggs into the kitchen floor.
While Thomas's mother (Toni Collette) has accepted her son's condition, Thomas has not. He wants to keep his brother a secret from his new schoolmates but when one student (Gemma Ward) learns of his sibling, she's not put off.
One of the film's many accomplishments is its successful blend of drama and comedy. It could quite easily have been a depressing affair but many of the brother's outrageous acts prove most amusing. On other occasions, they're heartbreaking.
Equally fine is the performance by Luke Ford. Playing a handicapped character is a challenge for any actor, but Ford is totally convincing as Charlie. Never do we consider he's an actor playing a role.
Toni Collette is first-rate as the ever-loving mother. She's heavily pregnant and when complications arise from her pregnancy, we can't help but wonder if the third child will be like Thomas or Charlie.
The most likable of the characters is Thomas's classmate and later girlfriend, Jackie, played by Gemma Ward. Her acceptance of Charlie and her solid support for Thomas makes her most appealing. It's interesting to note that while Thomas sees Charlie as a burden, his formal introduction to Jackie and the development of their relationship has much to do with his brother.
The Black Balloon is the work of first-time director Elissa Down, who studied film-making in Perth. She has done a sterling job. Having grown up with two Autistic brothers, it must be a profoundly personal work. The screenplay, by Down and Jimmy the Exploder, is honest and moving and the photography by Denson Baker is fine. I particularly appreciated his low- angle wide shots.
The Black Balloon won the Crystal Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival. It's an important film and deserves to be seen. The Australian Film Industry, sadly, does not have a good reputation, at home or overseas. But if they make films like this one, that's sure to change.
I liked it.
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