Although this film came out last year, I am finally getting around to seeing it.
‘The Black Balloon’ centres around a family trying to raise an autistic teenager, Charlie (play impressively and believably by Luke Ford)
The film mainly concerns itself with Thomas (a wonderful Rhys Wakefield) who has moved to a new town in Australia due to being an army brat and must go to a new school and make friends all while trying to hide his brother who his is ashamed of.
The boys in the school throw rock at the ‘special bus’ and make constant jokes about retards and spastics. On film it seems unnecessarily cruel, but if memory serves, kids are bastards.
Thomas’s one beackon of light comes in the form of Jackie (model Gemma Ward) who takes a liking to him, and accepts Charlie.
Although the movie never tries to pull at your heart strings, or make judgement on anyone, you cannot help but feel for Thomas. Being a teenage is hard enough, without having a brother who cannot speak, he cannot control his rages, he can have instant, violent mood changes. He runs through the neighborhood in his underpants. He throws a tantrum in a supermarket and he rubs his feces into the carpet.
When Thomas screams that he hates Charlie, you understand his frustration. He wants a normal life.
It is Maggie, (Toni Collette) the mother who lets you understand the family dynamic and how after all these years they have managed to stay together.
Of course, Toni Collette's performance as the mother of an autistic son, is a remarkable thing. She has created a mother who is emotionally and physically worn out, but she keeps on going for her son. She has to remain strong because the other men in her life are at breaking point.
Also noteworthy is Gemma Ward who creates a spontaneously warm young woman who cares for Thomas, sympathized with him, accepts Charlie without question.
Not the type of film that is major awards fodder, but still one worth seeking out.