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The film deserves praise for trying more than most films to show what these real hardships and challenges are, and how they can tax the family's patience.
The father grows short-tempered with Charlie at the store, and Thomas resorts to violence to deal with his frustrations with his brother.
He's turning 16, and his autistic brother Charlie embarrasses him. When his pregnant mother (Toni Collette) is confined to bed rest, he is put in charge of Charlie (Luke Ford) and with the help of his new girlfriend Jackie (Gemma Ward), Thomas faces his biggest challenge yet.
The Black Balloon is funny and ultimately heart-warming.
At his new school, Thomas finds assistance and support from Jackie (Gemma Ward), who becomes his girlfriend and is accepting toward both brothers.
Ironically, Thomas’s emotional outbursts enable him to bond with his non-verbal brother in new ways.
In the press notes, Down says she had firsthand experience with autistic children, and the film does seem to have the feel of someone who has had to deal with such children.
This film offers up a more realistic portrait of living with mentally challenged youth than the recent , which was also made in Australia.
He can genuinely be difficult and infuriatingly hard to manage.
He plays with his own feces at the house and then escapes one day to run half naked down the street to pee in a neighbor's bathroom where the cutest girl in Thomas' class just happens to be taking a shower.
But the girl, Jackie (Gemma Ward), ends up liking Thomas anyway, or maybe because of the special circumstances of his life.
Collette also serves as one of the film's producers.
(rated PG-13 for some sexual content, a scene of violence, and brief strong language) dances around more serious issues but prefers to keep its coming of age film mostly a warm family comedy.