The film “The Black Balloon” directed by Elissa Downs is a bold film about the realistic look at autism within a suburban family over a more traditional coming of age story. It looks at the complexities of family life without over-romanticizing Charlie’s autism and the affects it has on each member of the family as well as others outside of the family. The main theme of the film is that of Thomas’s coming of age and accepting that his brother will never be normal. Another theme that it is exploring is the treatment of people with disabilities.
This is all supported by the characters and the use of script, symbolism, cinematography, lighting and music/sound. The major theme in this film is Thomas played by Rhys Wakefield, becoming of age and accepting that his brother Charlie, played by Luke Ford will never be normal. The title of the movie “The Black Balloon” refers to Charlie being the odd one in his family and in society which in turn makes Thomas feel also like the black balloon, the director has used the opening scene to identify that the film is about Thomas.
The scene has the camera tilted up slightly as Thomas walks into the shot with a box of things with his name on it. As Thomas looks around the camera cuts to where he is looking, which are his new neighbours and you see them steer at Charlie his artistic brother. The close ups of Thomas illustrate an uneasy look but also one that has been confronted with the situation before.
Also to show that Thomas and his family are use to this hostile greeting into a new neighbourhood is when one of the three boys in the title sequence asks Thomas “why is your brother a spastic? ” Thomas response in a way that says it hasn’t been the first time “He’s not a spastic. He’s autistic” as well as the response the boys get from the mother when she turns at their bad language and say “Hello boys… where do you live? ” then grabs the cricket bat and walks off showing then that she will not tolerate their attitude towards her son.
The tone set in the movie it is quite uplifting using the music and lighting like in the musical part of the title sequence it is a happy uplifting music and the day is a bright sunny day although an emphasis is put on when Thomas is angry or sad though out the film resulting in dull slow music and dimmed lighting like when Thomas brakes down in the bathroom and his mother is comforting him. This is used to show that Thomas is the main focus again and that it is
Charlie that is causing this feeling. In one scene Thomas is trying to teaching Charlie how to say “… monkey… ” bribing him with chocolate this shows how he wants his brother to be normal. Another scene that shows this is at Thomas’s birthday party Jackie asks if Charlie will every talk again Thomas automatically says “yes… maybe if we stopped signing, he’d start talking… ” this supports the fact that Thomas thinks his brother could get better.
There are several scenes where it’s other people treating Charlie or the other disabled people badly or with no care in the film showing the audience another theme into the film. How people cannot accept people that are different because they act different to the so called normal in society. When the Department of Community Services visits the family this is a sign that the neighbors don’t accept Charlie’s behavior even though they know he cannot help it as well as at the shop the others steer at him when he is gets upset and throws a tantrum.
The reasons why this film is very well constructed is because of the use of characters, script, cinematography, lighting, music/sound as well as it gives the audience an insight into the life of a family with a member being autistic as well as the emotion that Thomas is going through growing up with a brother that will never be normal and the accepting of this. The film makes the audience laugh, cry and doesn’t make it seem fake it is a realistic look at a family with troubles.