Trailer of The Black Balloon
Toni Collette as another unflappable mother? This time to a spoon-banging, shit-smearing autistic teen? The combination portends to be predictable, and at worst melodramatic — Little MissSunshine meets Rain Man. Yet under the sensitive direction of Australian Elissa Down, this deft coming-of-age drama succumbs to neither fate.
Collette and Luke Ford (as the seemingly impenetrable Charlie) impress, though the film gets its powerful point of view from Rhys Wakefield's portrayal of younger brother Thomas, the seething casualty of a household in permanent, sometimes violent chaos.
Wakefield anchors the well-paced quieter moments, in particular a rain-soaked interlude involving a swim-class mate (luminous newcomer Gemma Ward) and a truce delivered via sign language. Some twee touches (Dad is unusually close to his teddy bear) lighten the tone with mixed results, but they never sweeten Down's trenchant insights into the complicated nature of acceptance.