Living With Charlie
Being a teenager isn't easy for Thomas (Rhys Wakefield) because as the son of a soldier he has spent much of his life moving from one town to another, never really getting to settle. Things are made more difficult by the fact that not only is his mum Maggie (Toni Collette) pregnant but his brother Charlie (Luke Ford) is severely autistic and can be a handful and often his handful as his mother is told to have plenty of bed rest. And it doesn't get better as after being mocked for not being able to swim properly Thomas meets Jackie (Gemma Ward) who is sweet on him leading him to be embarrassed and ashamed of his brother.
There is nothing I love more than stumbling across an Australian movie as whilst European movies often have style and architectural beauty Australian movies have a raw honesty and depth which you don't see in mainstream cinema. And that is what you get in "The Black Balloon", lots of depth but delivered in that laid back Australian manner which makes you smile as much as think. And as such this is another movie that the minute you start to watch you won't be bale to stop.
Now "The Black Balloon" is simple because the focus is on Thomas who having become a teenager is embarrassed by his autistic brother Charlie, it doesn't mean he doesn't love him or care for him but he would love if Charlie was normal so that things would be easier. But we see how things are difficult from Charlie running along the streets in his underwear to having an accident and rubbing poo in to the floor. That is actually strangely one of the movie's strengths because it doesn't make Charlie a sympathetic person, he makes him what he is, severely autistic, not in control of his actions yet we still like him.
But it is the depth of the situation which makes this fascinating, yes we may laugh when Thomas in his underwear is chasing Charlie down the street but we then see how Maggie expects Thomas to look after Charlie because he is his brother, the same with his father expecting Thomas to sacrifice his ways for his brother and not realising the turmoil which he is feeling. "The Black Balloon" is quite literally packed with this depth and this look at Thomas's life and how his parents can't see the burden they are placing on him. In truth this is so riveting that you begin not caring where it is going to go because it is so fascinating.
Much of that is to do with the performances and every single performance from Luke Ford's full on performance as Charlie through to Toni Collette's blinkered performance as Maggie is spot on. Collette makes you realise that Maggie's life is all about Charlie something which she has accepted and doesn't event think about but doesn't realise that things are not the same way for Thomas.
What this all boils down to is that "The Black Balloon" is another fantastic movie from Australia, one which will have you laughing but also open your eyes and make you think.