Dealing with disability

Struggling behind closed doors

Disability in The Black Balloon

The impact of disability is explored in The Black Balloon as viewers engage with the Mollison family and their daily struggles with their autistic son, Charlie. Thomas, Charlie's brother, is 16 years old. He loves his family however he longs for Charlie to be normal, wishing that life wasn't so difficult.

The impact of disability on a sibling of a disabled person.

Disability affects many people and it has a great impact on the sibling of the child with the disability. In the text, Thomas struggles to come to terms with Charlie’s disability. Thomas just wants life to be easier and he desperately tries to change his brother, even though deep down he knows Charlie will never be normal. In the lake scene Thomas reflects on how life must be for Charlie, to be living in the world but not being able to engage as a normal teenager does. In this scene we see Thomas develop a little more understanding and respect towards his brother. Having a disabled sibling can affect the child’s relationships with other people. In the film we see Thomas longing to have a normal relationship with Jackie, however he is burdened with looking after Charlie. Thomas’ relationship with his parents is also affected. Thomas feels like a second priority as his parents attention is always on Charlie. Thomas gets fed up with his parent’s expectations and snaps “I don’t want anything to do with him! He’s a freak!” The pressure Thomas is under is hindering him to express himself and come to terms with his emotions.

The impact of disability on the family of a disabled child.

Disability causes great amounts of stress and often depression in the family of a disabled child and it impacts in many ways other than physically and emotionally. They need to be constantly aware and patient, putting their child’s needs before their own. In the film the Mollison's have to deal with Charlie’s tantrums and incapability to communicate and Maggie struggles knowing that Charlie will never live a normal life. The Mollison's love Charlie however the pressure of having a disabled son starts to weigh down on them as the film commences. There is friction between characters once Maggie becomes more heavily pregnant and is required to rest. With Simon at work all day, Maggie relies on help from Thomas. “I wish you’d grow up; you’re going to be 16 soon,” Maggie snaps under pressure, she is clearly overwhelmed which is common in families in similar situations.

Society's stereotypes and expectations towards disability

In society disabled people are treated as outcasts. People on the outside who fear or do not understand disability make assumptions and create stereotypes which in turn makes it more harder for those with disabled loved ones to cope. In the film text society’s opinion of disability is frequently outlined as when the teenagers tease the bus labeling it ‘the spastic’s bus’. This is a result of the stereotypes and misconception that society has instilled in their minds. Society harbors double standards towards disabled people. Individuality and self-expression is encouraged by the media yet in the supermarket scene onlookers regard Charlie as a poorly disciplined child whose father does not know how to control him. They are all staring and are shocked when Simon pulls Charlie off the floor, watching the violence with disgust, however if it had have been a normal child they would have expected the father to deal with him.

The impact of disability outside The Black Balloon

Disability affects all types of people from infants to elderly. Disabled people rely on help from family, friends and carers to assist them to complete the basic daily tasks such as eating and showering. Disability affects every person in different ways. Those with no one to look after them and require full time attention can be sent into nursing homes simply because there are no services to facilitate the needs of these disabled people. Many of these people are young and deserve to be around people their own age, not to spending their days locked up in places where death and illness linger. Families with disabled relatives are eligible to receive government support with a pension. However currently the push for a higher pay and more equal rights is being debated in parliament. The labor government is in favor of the raise in disability pension however are waiting to put it through during the September election. This is evidence of how society does not fully comprehend the impact of disability. The government knows this issue hits close to home for many people and is putting off such a fundamental decision, ultimately to win more votes.

An interview with Luke Ford (Charlie Mollison)

Luke discusses how he went about creating Charlie's character both physically and emotionally. He explains the aspects of Charlie's personality and the behaviours he learnt from Sean, the autistic boy that Charlie's character was based on.

Black Balloon | BEHIND THE SCENES | Luke's Research | Icon


Reflective Analysis

The images I have chosen represent the different stages of the character relationships throughout the film. They reflect the characters emotions and how they are coping with the responsibility of living with a disabled loved one. The background of my Smore is water and I chose this particular image because it is a strong theme throughout the film. The water symbolises the complications between the characters and how they are struggling to cope. Each character experiences stages of overwhelming emotions and they feel that they cannot reach out, that they are drowning and no one’s there to help them. The selected images represent how the characters react both physically and emotionally to the complications that occur when dealing with disability.