The Black Balloon

  (01 April 08)

Thomas, a tall middle teenager is siting by his mother's bedside in the maternity unit. His gaze moves from his mother and baby sister to the source of an insistant whining and drumming. It is coming from his brother Charlie who in spite of being even bigger than himself is squirming around on the floor. Thomas then looks at the faces of the other mothers and babies. In the car going home he asks his Dad "Don't you ever wish Charlie was normal?" Some others are so 'other' they are hard to accept let alone love. Congratulations to all the makers of "The Black Balloon" for daring to show the everyday reality of life with an autistic adolescent. They showed a family coping brilliantly with the help of a skilful band of teachers and teacher-aides. Thanks to the audience who sat through this one and a half hour movie which gave us some humour, some 'urrh' scenes, some nasty brawls and tender moments. I enjoyed the 'aussieness' of the film - it reminded me of 'Cloud Street". In the end it is Charlie who inadvertently leads Thomas towards his 'Beatrice'. She is so 'other' of course but life has allotted her too an extra burden. In the end love - romantic and brotherly flowers against the backdrop of sneering repugnance and intolerance. We feel all these things. Mum is almost too good to be true but she is so strong too. As is Dad. What enables them to cope? Is it just as Dad declares the belief that 'those who can't look after their own are weak as piss'? What about this 'belief' - where did he learn it? Will it see the family through? Is it just father-to-son talk?


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