The Black Balloon

The Black Balloon


Reviewed by: Darren Amner

For most young boys turning 16 and starting afresh in a new town can potentially be adolescent heaven but not for Thomas Mollison (Wakefield) whose young life contains more responsibility than his slender shoulders can handle.

Thomas doesn't have massive expectations, he just wants to fit in and be like everybody else his age, however, this isn't something he has ever experienced especially when you have an autistic brother in the family to care for.

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His mother Maggie (Collette) is heavily pregnant and is told by her husband Simon (Thomson) to take it easy and in order for her to rest Thomas is told by his father to look after his autistic older brother Charlie (Ford) to ease the strain on their family a little.

Looking after Charlie is by no means an easy task and throughout most of his life Thomas feels he has been thwarted by his older brother's condition which constantly builds up pent-up frustration inside him.

Thomas is especially concerned when he catches the eye of the high school honey Jackie (Ward) and at first is so ashamed that he hides his brother away to avoid putting her off. But it seems Thomas has underestimated Jackie as she likes spending time with both Thomas and Charlie and so a new romance blossoms and Thomas takes an emotional journey of self discovery as he learns to cope with his brothers unusual antics.

The Black Balloon is a wonderful family drama where each character is beautifully written and developed by a group of actors at the top of their game. All principals are fantastic, Luke Ford as the autistic Charlie evokes sympathy and delivers an amazingly accurate portrayal in which he never goes overboard. Toni Collette, as always, delivers an assured performance as Maggie the cornerstone of the family.

Special praise must go to Erik Thomson (Simon) who delivers by far my favourite performance in this film, his comic timing is impeccable. Of course, it helps that his character has the best lines but his portayal of the caring father is one of the best performances I have seen and enjoyed in ages.

As Thomas, Rhys Wakefield is a very solid lead - and holds the film together nicely among the chaos of his everyday family life. His interaction with his brother Charlie provide some of the film's most touching and emotionally driven moments.

Gemma Ward as the eye-candy girlfriend does fine with what she has to work with and is Thomas's sunshine during his cloudy days. Being a supermodel in real-life helps draw your attention to her character onscreen, along with her a smile, which could light up a thousand streets.

The film is sublimely photographed in travel guide glory by Denson Baker, whose visuals are breathtaking and magical. The Black Balloon is exquisitely helmed by Elissa Down, who firmly cements herself on the map as a director to keep an eye on, but what's even more pleasing about this film and its success is just how much of a resurgence the Australian film industry is having in recent few years.

The Black Balloon is a truly heart-warming tale and a roaring good crowd pleaser of a movie; I laughed like a hyena and am not ashamed to say I wiped a tear from my eye during the real tense dramatic family moments. Yes, it really is a magnificent piece of cinema and I cannot recommend it enough.

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2008
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An insightful family drama, about a young man who must deal with more than his fair share of troubles, like his autistic brother. Also, young love and being a new boy in school.

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Chris ***1/2

Director: Elissa Down

Writer: Elissa Down, Jimmy Jack

Starring: Rhys Wakefield, Luke Ford, Toni Collette, Erik Thomson, Gemma Ward, Lloyd Allison-Young, Nathin Butler, Lisa Kowalski, Firass Dirani, Aaron Glennane, Andy Meritakis

Year: 2008

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Australia

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