It's time to do some growing up!

The Coming of Age

The Black Balloon exposes the development of maturity of Thomas Mollison, Charlie Mollison (Thomas’ autistic older brother) and Jackie Masters (Thomas’ girlfriend). The character’s actions and emotions mature from the opening towards the ending of the film with the arising complications of raising and meeting an autistic adolescent.

Thomas Mollison

With just moving to a new home, Thomas Mollison struggles to be accepted by his fellow peers whilst having to be the primary caregiver for his autistic older brother Charlie after his mother (Maggie Mollison) is admitted to hospital bed rest. Although Thomas loves and cares for Charlie, he has much resentment sharing the same blood as him. After Charlie has smeared his own faeces into the carpet, Thomas is to blame for the incident which results into an argument between Thomas and his mother.

Maggie: “I’d wish you grow up a bit. You’re gonna be 16 soon.”

Maggie: “Can’t leave you to do anything, can I?”

Thomas: “He shat everywhere, yell at him!”

Maggie: “What is he supposed to do? Don’t be so bloody selfish, Thomas.”

Thomas: “He’s not my responsibility!”

Maggie: “Grow up, will you?”

Maggie: “He’s your brother.”

Thomas: He’s a freak, I don’t want anything to do with him!”

This indicates that Thomas wants normalcy in his life so that he will not have to keep Charlie’s autism situation hidden and be able to be acknowledged by his classmates while living a normal teenager life. It also exhibits the lack of acceptance he has for Charlie despite showing affection for him at times and the privation of understanding and sympathy for his brother’s condition. Thomas’ naivety begins to transform after various circumstances affecting his approaches on his family. One scene where Thomas asks his father if he ever desired about being Charlie being normal in which he replies with “All I know is he's my own, and you're weak as piss if you don't look after your own”. The final few scenes when Charlie and Thomas are outside making unusual noises while banging on the ground with a stick and taking a bath together proves that Thomas no longer wishes for Charlie to be normal and is able to come to terms with his ingenuousness.

Charlie Mollison

Being diagnosed with autism as a child has completely reformed Charlie Mollison’s life. Being autistic and having Attention Deficit Disorder Charlie’s strife to obey his family’s orders and the ability to comprehend can be challenging but is able to recognise the situation majority of the time. He reacts badly in states which he does not get his ways for instance when Simon must return some items at the supermarket, Charlie begins a tantrum by yelling and laying on the ground and refusing to get up causing the customers and workers to be uncomfortable. Simon then must drag Charlie up and take him outside which displays Charlie’s absence of other’s feelings and selfishness that he must always get his manner. Despite having several outbursts Charlie shows some understanding of his actions towards others when he apologies to Thomas using Sign Language after their encounter when Charlie ruined Thomas’s birthday by self-gratifying in the presence of his entire family and Jackie. Charlie will never be able to mature like a typical person would but he does grow up in behaviours that illustrate his sympathetic mode towards other people.

Jackie Masters

Jackie Masters presents herself as a vulnerable and mature character throughout the film. Although she hasn't known Charlie for long, Jackie is able to interact with Charlie calmly and compassionately without antagonising him. When she meets him for the first time, she's shocked to see Charlie inserting a tampon in his mouth. After Thomas persuades Charlie to take it out he returns her bag and says goodbye believing that she does not want to see him anymore, she jokingly says “At least it wasn’t a used one”. She is informing Thomas that it isn’t a big deal in what happened and she is already beginning to understand what it feels like to be around someone who is autistic and having to face unusual actions from them. Jackie grows to empathise with Charlie and is more easily accepting of Charlie than Thomas is. Jackie tries to persuade Thomas in letting go of the dream for Charlie to be normal ever again by telling him “You have to stop wishing that Charlie will be normal, it’ll never change”. This expresses her awareness of Charlie’s disorder and recognition that Charlie will never be a normal typical person. This also demonstrates her maturity and appreciativeness of people.

The reasons I have chosen the following 3 images is because I believe that they link back to the topic I have selected "coming of age/maturity". The blurriness of the first image of Thomas adds emphasis on the main focus, which is Thomas. His facial reaction is shown after Jackie wears the monkey hat and his expressions indicate his confusion and shock of this. He also illustrates a scared expression in response to whether Jackie will reveal Thomas’ secret to other students or not. The darkness of the second image of Charlie showcases that after the brawl between the two brothers that they are in a ‘dark’ spot in their relationship meaning that there is a lot of anger and sadness towards one another. Charlie’s expression shows his sincerity in his apology and the confused face in whether Thomas will accept his apology. The dimness of light in the image conveys that Thomas believes that his mother is disappointed and angry at him for punching his brother. Maggie comforts her son to reassure him that regardless of the fight she still dearly loves him and does not resent him. The sadness in Thomas shows the genuineness of his regret.

Connection Between Looking for Alibrandi and The Black Balloon

The two films Looking for Alibrandi and The Black Balloon share the same genre type of film "coming of age". The difference in the films is that The Black Balloon main issue draws attention to people with disability and Looking for Alibrandi's central identity crisis focuses on cultural diversities.

Looking for Alibrandi Trailer

Luke Ford's Research on Autism

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