Changes of the heart

Brotherly Love

Thomas and Charlie’s relationship as brothers is strongly motivated by Charlie’s inability to do things on his own. Thomas being the younger of the two has to be incredibly grown up for a fifteen-year-old boy. When their mother has complications due to her pregnancy, Thomas becomes the main caregiver for his brother.

He can't be normal, Thomas

Thomas just wants Charlie to be normal but this is impossible for Charlie who has autism. Throughout the film The Black Balloon Thomas is bullied for having a “spaz” for a brother; this makes both Charlie and Thomas angry. This becomes evident when Charlie escapes the bus taking him and his friend Russel to school so he could find Thomas. He then gets thrown into a fight with bullies from Thomas’ school. This is the beginning of Thomas’ changes towards his brother. Thomas eventually realises that Charlie cannot change who he is no matter how much Thomas wants him to. At the car towards the end of the film, Thomas and Charlie share a moment in which nothing was said but everything that needed to be was.

A new hope

When Thomas starts to get involved with Jackie, he finds Charlie a hindrance but Jackie helps Thomas get to know and understand Charlie. Jackie is the right person for Thomas as she brought the brothers together, she helped Thomas say what he felt and was concerned about Charlie’s autism. As Thomas and Jackie watch the rain fall, he says

That’s what it’s like for my brother. Not just what he can see. It’s what he hears. What he thinks. Everything. I think it’s all fuzzy’

This is another turning point for Thomas - it is like he finally understands what it is like to be Charlie.


During the film Thomas has grown to accept Charlie in ways that he never would have thought possible. This is shown when Thomas helps Charlie in his production when Russel can't. He puts on the monkey costume and joins him dancing on stage much to the approval and praise of his Mother, Father and Jackie. Another situation that Thomas never would have thought he would have been in is when Charlie is sitting under the clothesline in their backyard banging a wooden spoon on the concrete and their neighbour is spraying him with the hose. Thomas joins Charlie just in spite of their neighbour. This creates a loving bond between the brothers that will last forever.