BLACK BALLOON, THE
Thomas Mollison (Rhys Wakefield) is turning 16, and as his family moves in to a new suburban home in Sydney, his autistic older brother Charlie (Luke Ford) once again embarrasses him as ignorant neighbours stare or make rude remarks. When his pregnant Mother (Toni Collette) is confined to bed, he and his army dad, Simon, (Erik Thomson) are put in charge of the difficult Charlie. His growing interest in school pal, Jackie (Gemma Ward), is also threatened by Charlie's antics, especially when it triggers one particular violent confrontation at Thomas' birthday party.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A deeply personal film for writer/director Elissa Down, The Black Balloon is a gentle yet unflinching look at a family strained by the pressures of caring for an autistic teenager. This element is at the core of the screenplay, which makes the film a little thin and one dimensional. But the film still manages to take us on an emotional journey. Often episodic, it is blessed with top performances - if only there were more dramatic layers to work with.
Toni Collette slips seamlessly into the role of an accidentally pregnant wife and mother to two teenagers, whose strength is constantly challenged. Although I'm not keen on how her husband Simon is written, Erik Thomson takes a good swipe at it. Both teenage boys handle their challenging roles well: Rhys Wakefield as Thomas the younger brother who finds it all too hard, and Luke Ford as the autistic boy who is by necessity the centre of everyone's attention. This single focus bleaches just about everything else in the screenplay, even the budding young romance that is well handled, with Gemma Ward's intriguing, unique face a genuine plus. She also has a delightfully easy credibility and maturity that works in her favour.
Perhaps less satisfying than I would have liked, The Black Balloon does feature a number of punchy scenes; and the emotional landscape that Elissa Down paints - drawing on her own life experiences - is engaging. Especially interesting is how she uses the contrast of a bright cinematic tone against the potential for a downbeat mood seeping out of the subject matter.
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ELISSA DOWN INTERVIEW
BLACK BALLOON, THE (M)
CAST: Rhys Wakefield, Gemma Ward, Luke Ford, Erik Thomson, Toni Collette
PRODUCER: Tristram Miall
DIRECTOR: Elissa Down
SCRIPT: Elissa Down, Jimmy 'The Exploder' Jack
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Denson Baker
EDITOR: Veronika Jenet
MUSIC: Michael Yezerski
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nicholas McCallum
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 6, 2008