“The Black Balloon” is one of the few stories which deal with the subject of Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) yet it is much more than just the medical conditions, the film highlights the challenges to an Australian family living with an afflicted older brother seventeen year old Charlie Mollison (Luke Ford).
The families’ love is tested every day as Charlie’s great physical strength and actions draw him into some problematic and perhaps dangerous situations. It seems that he and his family may have been taught by a psychologist how to limit his temper tantrums, aggressive and irresponsive behavior with rewards and punishments. If Charlie’s behavior continued to be out control in public as Charlie grew older he might have been institutionalized.
There are more frustrations when sixteen year old Thomas Mollison (Rhys Wakefield) was ordered that he must take care of Charlie. Torn between love and the desire to enjoy his new school, the task was difficult.
The one bright light to appear for Thomas was the companionship of his beautiful classmate Jackie (Gemma Ward). Jackie accepted Charlie as they included him in their daily activities.
Living in a small town in Queensland, Australia is similar to small towns in the United States as the students could be cruel in their reactions to Charlie and making fun of him. Fitting into the school and the community was difficult.
Maggie Mollison (Toni Collette), the mother, wanted to ignore Charlie and only concentrate on her pregnancy. Of course she loved Charlie but the time was coming for their new baby to be born.
Somewhat sad but with hope, Thomas finally bonded with Charlie in the bathroom scene when they both had fun bathing in the tub.
Stand-out performance by Gemma Ward, an absolutely delightful young lady destined for stardom.
We rarely see an Australian film in the United States and I want to commend Neo Classics Films for their portrayal of Autism/ Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in such a sensitive realistic manner.
The meaning of the name of the film The Black Balloon: In the beginning of the film, viewers see a bunch of brightly-colored balloons with only one black balloon, the odd balloon is different from all the others, just as Charlie and his family are different from the other families around them.
The Black Balloon is the work of first-time director Elissa Down, who studied film-making in Perth. The Black Balloon won the Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. http://www.neoclassicsfilms.com/filmsTBB.html