A SECLUDED BLACK BALLOON
A single soul searching for answers
A black balloon
At the beginning of the film, as the family are in the backyard, a group of red balloons tied together are seen floating through the sky. Shortly after, a black balloon appears and is seen quickly following after the rest of the balloons. The colours of the balloons are used as further representation of the scene. The colour red is said to be symbolical for many strong emotions such as energy, strength and most of all, love. The colour black however, represents grief, remorse, anger and is able to create a dismal atmosphere. Black holds a negative connotation and represents a lack of colour which signifies emptiness.
This scene was symbolical for the Mollison’s, who were represented by the single black balloon, chasing after the acceptance and befriending of society, represented by the group of red balloons. The film constantly continues to represent the Mollison family as being a group of black balloons struggling in the midst of society’s expectations of a perfect family.
The absence of social inclusion
Charlie is a character that is continuously rejected by many teenagers at the local high school due to his autism, which people are unable to see as being a serious case. Unlike most teenagers, Charlie can not talk or understand situations in depth. This gives us an understanding of how society may be very disrespectful and negative towards him. Charlie is often being referred to as unpleasant names such as “spastic” and “retard” by many of the school boys which represent the type of immature and ignorant generation there was. Many teenagers were very rude and inconsiderate towards children that had a disability and saw themselves as being more superior to them. An example of this was when Charlie rode to and from school in a special bus that attracted negative attention as people would find amusement in throwing eggs at it and carelessly laughing. Another example of Charlie being excluded and mistreated is through the behaviour of their neighbour who appears to be very unaccepting of Charlie and his behaviour. She continuously yelled at him to be quiet and if that was not enough, she sprayed the hose in his direction. These actions show us that she has no care or sympathy for him and treats him like he does not deserve respect.
Thomas finds himself struggling to cope with his complicated life, both at home and at school. Being raised next to an autistic brother was very difficult for him, as his brother required a lot of attention and Thomas found himself being less of a priority to his parents. Thomas deals with a great deal of pressure from his parents who rely on him to be responsible for his brother. This often highlights how his needs seem to be forgotten in the midst of other problems. Thomas is also excluded at school by the popular boys who tease his inability to swim and as a result, Thomas would rather quietly sit by himself rather than attract negative attention. Charlie’s autism is also another reason that affects Thomas’ school life because he never seems to be able to escape the humiliation of others.
The title reflects both Charlie and Thomas as they are regularly being bullied by a group of teenage boys who impact their lives at school. These teenage boys influenced many others to become distant towards Charlie and Thomas, excluding them from any social involvement because they are different from the stereotypical family.
The Mollison’s are a small family that differ from the common stereotype. Each individual brings different attributes which attracts the attention of many people who perceive them as being a dysfunctional family. Simon, the father, is a man who often holds intense discussions with his own teddy bear, Rex. Maggie, the mother, is a pregnant woman that manages to keep the family together and complete her duties of care for her oldest son, Charlie, who has a mental impairment. Thomas is the youngest in the family, however he finds himself struggling to cope with accepting his family. As different as these individuals may be, together they all differ from what others may identify as being a “normal family” and they are unable to reach society’s expectations of them. An example of this is seen at the beginning, when the Mollison’s first move into their house. Close by neighbours are seeing being annoyed and almost disgusted at their arrival and the appearance of Charlie was a shock to them. The Mollison’s continue to attract negative attention from the public when Charlie falls to the floor at the shopping centre. Everyone watches the family appalled and frightened by the behaviour which they find absurd. The public are unable to understand the Mollison family, therefore it eliminated the chance of befriending them.
At the end of the text, Thomas and Charlie are seen bathing together. It is here that the audience is able to understand the true meaning of the title through Thomas' words:
“I hated being your brother. Every night, I used to close my eyes and wished that when I woke up you’ll be normal. But you weren’t...You just pissed on my leg didn’t you?”
It is in this scene that Thomas finally accepts his brother the way he is. All his life, he had dreamed of being accepted, but he found that dream slipping away with each day that passed. Being a black balloon represents a person who is indifferent and struggling to fit in. But it is in this scene that Thomas realises that maybe being a black balloon is not so bad after all. Accepting who you are is what will free you from being in a miserable state of mind.