I have found this film last night on my magic box "on demand" list
and couldn't help but write about it.
"The Black Balloon" was released in 2008, directed by Australian
Gemma Ward and others
"The Black Balloon" is a drama, based in 1980s Australia. The
family is moving to a new place as the father is in the army. Pregnant
mother, two teenage sons. Thomas is your usual average teenager
facing getting used to another new school, Charlie is severely
autistic and with ADD.
The film touches so many aspects of living and caring for the
autistic member of the family I will have to struggle to make this
post shorter than a book.
Charlie's age is not exactly specified in the film, he could be
between 17 and 20 years old. He is non verbal, communicating
through sign language and "da!" is the answer to almost everything.
His brother Thomas is 16.
You can see how the whole family life is arranged around Charlie's
needs. He is a "runner" therefore the front door is always locked,
some cupboards have padlocks, there is a star chart to reward
Charlie for good behaviour, there are also labels on objects in
his room. They all try to make his life as happy and comfortable
as possible but it is not easy. We observe the viciousness of
neighbourhood kids - the teasing of a "spastic". The arrogance of
the neighbour. Charlie has a morning ritual, when he sits on the
garden path humming and rhythmically banging the wooden spoon.
The neighbour cruelly shouts for him to shut up and squirts him
with a hose when he doesn't respond. Later she calls social services
to complain about the noise and fights.
The most important subject of this film, however, is Thomas's
relationship with Charlie. He would like to have the normal
life of a teenager. But, he is embarrassed by his brother. When
a girl from school comes to visit for the first time he locks Charlie
in his room. That turns into a disaster as Charlie decides to do
a poo and smears it all over his carpet and body.,
The frustration reaches it's top when Charlie ruins Thomas's
birthday party. He beats his brother up, smashes his game
console and sobs late at night because it's not fair. No, it's
not fair says his mother, the family is all Charlie will ever have.
He will not ever be able to do what Thomas can and is doing
now. He will live with them all his life, closed in his own world.
Thomas feels not only sorry for himself, but there is also the guilt.
Guilt for hoping one day he will wake up and Charlie will be
normal, guilty for being so angry and ashamed.
And then there is Charlie's big day. Charlie is going to be part
of a school performance where he will be doing a monkey
dance. On the day however, his partner has a breakdown
on the stage and refuses to dance. Charlie is not happy at
all and suddenly we see Thomas joining him to perform,
dancing in the monkey suit...
You'll be sad, moved and you'll lough. The only film
I've seen finishing with the words "You've just p***ed
on my leg."
Luke Ford in my opinion should receive an Oscar for
his performace as Charlie.