Film Review: The Black Balloon

Image from The Black Balloon. Gemma Ward (Jackie) and Rhys Wakefield (Thomas)

During her brief runway hiatus Gemma Ward has been quietly building a unique acting resume; first with a memorable turn as a masked villain in the horror hit The Strangers and now a spirited performance in the Aussie indie The Black Balloon.

The Black Balloon is a heart-wrenching and at times difficult coming of age story about a young man’s struggle to understand and accept his autistic brother. Starring Toni Collette, Rhys Wakefield, Luke Ford and Gemma Ward, the film is an engaging slice of suburban Australian life.

The Mollisons are a plucky army family who have just moved to the suburbs of Sydney. Middle son Thomas (Rhys Wakefield) is an affable yet insecure boy struggling to fit in at his latest school. While his parents prepare for the birth of their latest child, Thomas’ responsibilities involving his brother increase. This change results in embarrassment and anxiety for Thomas who desperately wants to maintain the image of normalcy around his classmates – particularly the charming Jackie (Gemma Ward) on whom he has developed a crush.

The defining characteristic of the film is its honesty. In dealing with the effects of Charlie’s autism the family (particularly Thomas) is tested. The film doesn’t shy away from showing the difficulties and tribulations associated with caring for a sick loved one, nor does it glamorize or exploit Charlie’s condition. There is an earnest quality to the storytelling – due in part to the fact that filmmaker Elissa Down based the film on her own experiences growing up with two autistic brothers.

The performances are stellar, particularly Collette as the boys’ unflappably upbeat mother Maggie and Gemma as the object of Thomas’ affections. When onscreen, Gemma radiates star quality. It’s hard to believe that shy and affectionate Jackie is the same girl who has vamped down international runways for the past five years but Gemma disappears into her character. Many models attempt the transition into acting but few manage to make their mark on the big screen in such a charming way.

“The Black Balloon” Now Playing in New York & Los Angeles

  1. oh how i love thee gemma ward.

    i want to see this now.
    i might be the only person who didn’t know she was in “the strangers.”

    Not a big fan of being scared.

  2. Have you seen the movie, Maysi?

    I heard she did a good job on the film. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

  3. Yep I saw it. I just think she’s better at modeling…can’t be good at all our endeavors.

  4. I miss seeing Gemma on the cover of magazines and on the runway!! We need her back!! She has a great sophistication and elegant exotic beauty to her!!

    Jeremiah Van Wagenen
    A Gemma Fan

  5. So happy to see Gemma back on the runways. She looked so pretty at Givenchy and nice to see she didn’t make a big fuss about her returning to the runway.

    Go Aussies!

  6. I just saw “The black balloon” on Youtube and I have fallen in love! It was so fresh, beautiful and funny, espesially at the beginning. Gemma is such a good actor! So natural and cute :-) You gotta see this movie!

  7. I’ve seen it a couple of times… I thought she did a good job! She plays a really cool character!

    And she prefers acting to modelling, I know she missed Milan Fashion Week one year to audition for her part in The Strangers. (I think I got my facts right there… you might need to check!)

  8. Gemma is a good actress… The most striking thing is her voice… Since I never heard it before… I was really surprised of her really low sort of tommy boy kind of voice which actually makes her even more charming than just on picture…
    so I back her as an actress… Coz some other models, you just DON’T want to hear them talk… : )

  9. Good for Gemma! Check out my blog entry on the Page Six Magazine article, “The Betrayal of a Supermodel” (about the rise and fall of Gemma’s modeling career) on my site:

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