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The Black Balloon

30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

When Thomas (Rhys Wakefield) and his family move to a new home and he has to start at a new school, all he wants is to fit in. When his pregnant mother (Toni Collette) has to take things easy, his father Simon (Erik Thomson) puts him in charge of his autistic older brother Charlie (Luke Ford). Thomas, with the help of his new girlfriend Jackie (Gemma Ward), faces his biggest challenge yet. Charlie's unusual antics take Thomas on an emotional journey that causes his pent-up frustrations about his brother to pour out - in a story that is funny, confronting, and ultimately heart-warming.


"One of the Most Genuinely Enjoyable Films out of Australia in Years." --The Hollywood Reporter

"Funny, Fierce and Deeply Moving" --The Austin Chronicle

"Compassionate but Unblinking" --The San Francisco Chronicle

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Toni Collette, Luke Ford
  • Directors: Elissa Down
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: NeoClassics Films
  • DVD Release Date: March 19, 2012
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B007HN3WV2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #468,686 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By JohninMaine on May 29, 2010
Format: DVD
This is not a tearjerker about a handicapped young man and his saintly family, thank goodness. It's the story of an Australian family rattling along like a train about to derail at any minute. A very honest, accurate portrait of life with a mentally handicapped teenager. It's a fun but serious story, often funny, moving and heartbreaking sometimes.

Toni Collette is wonderful and lovable as the mother!

The main character, Thomas, is a quiet teenager who has started at a new high school and spies a girl in his gym class. Beyond those challenges he has an older brother, Charlie, with fairly severe autism and ADD. Life at home is wild and unpredictable. When keys are accidentally left in the front door, Charlie opens it and runs down the middle of the street. He happens to be wearing only sneakers, underwear and his favorite monkey-ears hat. It's funny and frightening at the same, because he's obviously in danger of harming himself. Brother Thomas runs after him, and we get the feeling Thomas has probably been rescuing his brother for all of his life.

It's a very good story, the characters are fun to watch. All families should be blessed with the love, stamina and sense of humor that these folks have. But the film is never syrupy or preachy.

Personal note: I have a teenage son with autism. I would not recommend this movie to families who have a little child w/autism, because it would probably be very depressing. It's not possible to really predict what level of impairment an autistic child will have when they reach their teens. I just feel that this movie could easily add fear and stress to parents of, say, a Kindergartner with autism -- and those folks need only love and support!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark Barry TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 7, 2009
Format: DVD
**You will need a multi-region player to play this DVD**

As 50-year old parents of an 18-year Autistic son, the better half and I sat down to watch "The Black Balloon" with an open mind. She thought it was honest, true to life and moving - I thought it was brutal, clinically exploitive and deeply hurtful to those of us who actually have to live with - and grow old with - this difficult condition.

First up - Autism doesn't sell - so the cover of the DVD slyly tries to pan it off as a teenage love story - when most of movie is dominated by the lead character's Autistic brother whose inappropriate, but unintentional outbursts make life for him, his parents and their family - a living hell.

This is an Icon Production - Mel Gibson's company - and I've found his movies bludgeon you over the head in order to extract emotion. If he can't gore it up, he'll hurt it up. As other reviewers have pointed out, the brother's behaviour is wild (rubbing excrement into the carpet, punch outs at home, tantrums in supermarkets) - some of which does happen, but most doesn't. No experienced parents would take their son to such situations precisely because it will precipitate such behaviour - these film parents are conveniently clueless - and that just doesn't wash. Then there's the horrific cruelty of the Australian school kids and neighbours - again all of it so over the top as to beggar belief.

But the worst scene is after a particularly horrific home incident, the special needs brother Charlie (played by Luke Ford) supposedly apologises in sign language to his brother Thomas (played by Rhys Wakefield) - this just wouldn't happen.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By BLACKBOXBLUE on January 17, 2011
Format: DVD
I've been watching more and more Australian films over the last few years, mostly because there are a lot of great actors coming out of Australia and when I look into their body of work, I come across their films from there. After discovering young Aussie actor Rhys Wakefield in the trailer to the upcoming film Sanctum (2011), I checked out his recent short film Clearing the Air (2009), and also added his film The Black Balloon (2008) to my Netflix queue.

What I was struck by more than anything else while watching this small foreign indie film today, was the amazing care and craftsmanship that obviously went into it. The movie starts with an incredibly creative opening credit sequence set to good Australian pop/rock music. The graphics for the titles are really cool, creative, and unusual in the way they are presented, which I really enjoyed and felt inspired by. Australian director Elissa Down wrote and directed this film based on her own family and childhood. The Black Balloon is basically a coming-of-age film, following in the footsteps of so many before it, but adding a new unique tale to the collection.

The story centers around Thomas, played very well by Wakefield, and his family. Toni Collette plays the typical "weird" mother that we've become accustomed to her playing in The Sixth Sense (1999), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), and About A Boy (2002). And Luke Ford plays Charlie, Thomas' severely autistic brother. Having a "spastic", as kids love to call Charlie, presents a lot of challenges for Thomas and his family. Thomas is a teenager who of course feels the pressure of fitting in and just wants a normal brother, a normal family, and a normal teenage life.
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