The Black Balloon Blu-ray Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Feature 8.0
Video 8.0
Audio 9.0
Special Features   N/A
Total 8.3

Distributor: Icon
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Reviewer: Felix Staica
Classification
: M15+

8.0


The Black Balloon

The Australian penchant for suburban nostalgia is alive and kicking in director Elissa Down’s The Black Balloon. In cicada-laden average streets saturated with luxuriant summer colours, an unspecified year in the 1980s is more or less recreated.

Home and Away actor Rhys Wakefield plays Thomas Mollison, who is turning 16 and has to juggle the typical territory: girls and cars and school and sport (in his case, attempting to swim to the end of the pool). Alongside his eccentric father Simon (Erik Thomson, an army employee who drags his family around the country and who semi-comically talks to his teddy bear) and United States of Tara-channelling mother Maggie (Toni Collette, grounding and rounding out the performances but sadly missing in the middle part of the film), Thomas confronts the challenging realities of an autistic older brother.

Charlie (Luke Ford) cannot speak and makes himself known to the world through grunts and noisy, violent physicality. It isn’t always pretty, especially at the supermarket check-out. And it doesn’t help that a ‘bitch’ neighbour threatens to call child services then police! But all up, the family seems to cope.

When Thomas gets interested in swim-team colleague Jackie (Gemma Ward, of Search for a Supermodel fame), he finds Charlie a predictable yet immovable hindrance. Early on, one confronting scene makes this very, very clear. Yet she is not repulsed by his brother in a way he thinks she would be.

Down co-wrote the script with Jimmy Jack and she has her own experience, growing up with an autistic brother, to drawn on. The story is touching and studded with many affecting scenes. The two siblings manage to create a genuine on-screen bond which convinces the viewer that they have been close before we know will be close for all their years to come.

Colette sparkles with domestic, maternal realism: there is a very big risk she may have overwhelmed everyone else. I love how it looks and sounds, especially the 80s Aussie rock soundtrack.

And while some may say it manipulates our emotions, The Black Balloon swerves quickly and jolts us out of our complacent feelings, pushing forward understandable but enormous expressive energy in scenes such as the birthday one. The filmmaking is superb because multiple dialogue streams simultaneously, like real life; and the camera is there to capture all the nuances of what people on screen are feeling.

The movie should not simply be thought of as a piece of homework on better understanding the lives of those with autism; nor should it be simply an indulgence in quaint Australiana; it is a poignant, engrossing and beautiful story with few flaws. 

Felix Staica






 
 



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