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Elissa Down’s film, “The Black Balloon”, shows that judgment and prejudice due to preconceived circumstances can have a negative and damaging effect on normal family life. Throughout the film, Down portrays the impacts that prejudice can have on a family. This is shown by the unfriendly neighborhood the Mullison’s live in. Additionally, the negative implication that come from judging one’s own family highlighted, which are predominantly shown by Thomas’s struggle with his brother Charlie. Down’s movie highlights the fragileness of one acceptance. Jackie is the guidance that Thomas needs to accept his brother.
Thomas suffers from social exclusion and the prejudgment, due to his family’s dynamic. This has an extensive effect on Thomas social acceptance and happiness in his new community. When entering the new community the Mullison’s are confronted with the prejudice from the neighboring people. They begin having a bias view on the Mullison’s, when referring to Charlie as a “spastic”. The neighbors constantly keep distance and show their lack of acceptance towards the Mullison’s because of their differences. Thomas experiences cruelty by his peers at his school. Down uses Mid-shots to show Thomas’s alienation. This is shown when there is a mid-shot of his school peers and Thomas is standing by himself and is wearing a different uniform. This shines light on the harshness that his unaccepting peers. The Black Balloon depicts the challenge Thomas continuously faces from rejection based on preconceived family dynamics due to his brother’s autism.
Throughout “The Black Balloon” Down highlights the negative implications that come from judging one’s own family. Thomas constantly has to struggle due to his lack of his embracing to Charlie. It is prevalent in the film that Thomas wants “nothing” to do with Charlie and for the majority of the film he wishes he “wasn’t (his) brother”. Because of Thomas’ negative attitude towards Charlie, this leads him to be unhappy and bring on problems of his own upon himself. These issues are the poo smearing, birthday fight scenes. Thomas tries to hide the fact that Charlie is his brother. Which represents the outside world and Thomas’ social life and the fight to keep Charlie out of it. The Mullison’s agree to the fact the “it was hard at first” but once they accepted Charlie they were happier and it was easier to deal with Charlie. But the father of Thomas tells him “if you don’t look after your own, you’re piss weak”. This has a strong impact on the audience, where Down shows Thomas’s understanding and realization that is unjust to not want Charlie. Down also portrays the positive effects that come from accepting one’s family. This is shown when Thomas is sharing a bath with Charlie and they are smiling and laughing. However, the struggle to accept Charlie was a perilous, and required help from people close to Thomas.
In ‘The Black Balloon,’ Down shows that the path to acceptance is difficult and unjust, but sometimes the ability to accept your own flaws and that the one’s around you need help from others. This theme is shown predominately when Thomas is beginning to embrace Charlie by the help of Jackie. At the start, Thomas attempts to hide Charlie away from his school peers, shoving Charlie in his room hoping that they would not see into Thomas’ real family life. However, inevitably his peers find out that Thomas has an “autistic” brother. Down uses the character of Jackie as a guide which teaches Thomas that Charlie’s “not gonna change”. In the middle of the film, Down shows a Jackie, Charlie and Thomas traveling through an obstacle course. This is used to symbolize the internal struggle of all the characters, but it is prevalent in Thomas and his struggle to accept Charlie. But the characters find their ways through the obstacle course just like Thomas finding his love and responsibility for Charlie. Down also shows Thomas’s self improvement and maturity, through his birthday and age. Down uses this to show the audience that Thomas is maturing and is being able to accept Charlie. The final scene of reconciliation between the two brothers shows how far Thomas has emotionally experienced throughout the film, with close-ups showing his conflicted feelings of nostalgia and discomfort. Contrarily to the mood of the film, it ends on a positive and heartwarming note, Thomas finally has acceptance for his brother for who he is, with the help from others such as Jackie and he guidance and assistance.
The Black Balloon explores the impact of prejudice due to different family dynamics, as well as the inner conflict one can have between defending their own family, and being socially accepted in their community. Furthermore, Down highlights the difficulties brought forward from judging your own family; Thomas wanting nothing to do with Charlie puts stress on the whole family and leads to unnecessary fighting. Despite this, Thomas learns to accept Charlie with the help from others.
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