The film The Black Balloon was filmed in Australia and the UK and was produced by (Tristram MiallToni Collette) The story is about the members of a family, the parents and two teenage boys, as they cope with a unexpected challenge. Complications arise because one of the teen age boys, Charlie, is intellectually disabled. The family has relocated to a new area. Because the father has a new positing in the army. Thomas is turning 16.Thomas finds Charlie an embarrassment in public, so when Thomas is attracted to Jackie, a girl in his swim class, Charlie presents any number of obstacles when she drops by their house, The three of them go for a walk during a family birthday dinner.
Can Thomas find a way to enter the world of teen romance and still be his brother’s keeper, or is Charlie’s disability going to prove more than Thomas can handle? This case study analysis focuses on a number of aspects and issues pertaining to Thomas’ character. In addition to portraying some of the difficulties witnessed by Thomas, the study utilizes several psychosocial aspects from the movie to explain relevant developmental issues. In this context, the study uses information from numerous peer-reviewed articles that were published in the recent past on related subjects. Background of the movie1.1
The movie portrays an unconventional and harrowing depiction of an Australian family with two sons. The elder one of the two, Charlie Mollison, is around 17 years old and suffers from severe autism which causes anxiety for him.. The story begins when the family shifts to western suburban Sydney in the early 1990s, with the younger son Thomas, who is 15 years and nearing 16, trying to fit into the local community. Meanwhile, his mother becomes pregnant and has to take a rest, which leaves Thomas to look after Charlie. This responsibility soon proves to be one of the biggest challenges in Thomas’ life (Ebert 2010, p. 97).
The movie’s director, Elissa Down, says that she drew inspiration for the film from her own experiences during childhood having grown up with two brothers who suffered from autism. In fact, Elissa depicted her younger brother in the character of the autistic Charlie as someone who was often quiet and communicated mostly by way of signs.
When calm, Charlie is known to be cheerful and cuddly and expresses himself through wheezing grunts. However, he tends to get agitated easily, which induces him into making loud and disgruntled noises with disturbing intensity. In fact, he tends to throw unimaginable tantrums and often resorts to agitated behaviour when in a disturbed state. As a result, the film tends to project Charlie’s complex and difficult personality that is exacerbated by his autistic disability (Ebert 2010, p. 97-100). Comment
Nevertheless, the focus of this case study is the character of Thomas. Charlie’s growing complexity and unruly behaviour makes Thomas feel uncomfortable. In fact, he is a shy adolescent who has trouble taking swimming lessons at his new school and is unable to remain afloat during classes on lifesaving. .Character Analysis: Thomas – 2
Difficulties movement 2.1
Thomas Mollison is a shy teenager who has initial issues with adjusting to a new environment. As a new kid at school, he takes some time to be accepted by other peers. Thomas is ridiculed and made fun of because of his brother’s autistic behaviour, He is also being bullied . He witnesses frequent quarrels with neighbours who complain of the extreme noise level and threaten to call the police. However, not many realize that there is a person with autism living in the house. Thomas is also angered at this apathy among his neighbours, who do not seem to understand the difficulty in living with an autistic person, especially with a baby expected in the next few months. .How does Charlie affect Thomas 2.2
Thomas’ is angry towards his brother and his feelings intensify over time. This could be in response to demisting self-esteem. Incidents such as the one where Thomas had to run after his fleeing brother and enter Jackie’s house in his underwear must have made him very angry and resentful. Charlie also threw many tantrums at the local supermarket, causing other people to stare at both brothers. In fact, Charlie had to be dragged out from the store because one of his violent screams, much to the dismay of his brother. In one of the most repellent cases, Thomas finds Charlie smearing his faeces on himself and on the carpet floor. The thought of cleaning this mess makes.
Thomas feels e trapped in his brother’s world,. Thomas pushed Charlie to the ground and punched him angrily., This behaviour deeply enrages him and makes him break down. Thomas loves Charlie despite ofthe problems. But Thomas further feels embarrassed in front of his girlfriend Jackie on account of Charlie’s actions and longs for his brother to be normal, just so Thomas can have a normal relationship with everyone. He is also annoyed by the fact that his parents resort to using sign language to communicate with Charlie and often treat him like a baby.
Thomas is also entrusted with the task of taking Charlie on the bus, which adds further to his discontent. Jackie plays a pivotal role in helping Thomas through this gruelling challenge by helping him understand that Charlie’s actions are not intentional and that he would always behave in ways that are considered abnormal. Jackie goes beyond providing simple moral support by taking care of Charlie and standing up against those who try to bully him. She gradually convinces Thomas and makes him realize that Charlie would continue to act in this peculiar way and that there was nothing that anyone could do about it. ?Do you ever wish Charlie was normal 2.4
It is a question that has Thomas asks his father in a dream. The father says “he did wish Charlie were normal at the start, but he doesn’t think about it much anymore” (The Black Balloon 2008). Such phrases speak to the Thomas family’s attempts to maintain cohesion. The most important pillar in this family is the mother, who works all the time and works to keep the family together. . Thomas sharing his life with Charlie 2.5
Despite the pressures faced by Thomas because of Charlie, this does not completely hinder the relationship they share during the film. For example, the participation of Thomas Charlie’s inconvenience in using the spoon in the backyard of the house, in the morning after the brawl that occurred between them in Thomas’ birthday.
Another scene between them in the school puts Thomas with Charlie after Charlie’s colleague leaves him to participate in a play. The final scene in the film shows the harmony between Thomas and Charlie in a bathroom setting. Besides projecting the wild behaviour of autistic Charlie, the movie successfully portrays the blooming relationship between Thomas and Charlie, and the film is filled with strains of innocence and tenderness. .Influences of other Characters 3
The movie offers a nerve-wrenching insight into a modern household that deals with psychosocial issues like autism. Despite being pregnant, the boys’ mother Maggie does not want to rest as recommended by her doctors in order to take care of Charlie. When she eventually has to go to the hospital to give birth, the father Simon Mollison wrongly assumes that Thomas could take care of his brother. In contrast, Charlie becomes hyperactive and wreaks havoc on Thomas while their parents are away.
Nevertheless, the primary element in the move is the character of the mother. The character of Maggie can be regarded as the most complex individual in the story; she displays strong courage and dedication in bringing up her elder son. By way of sheer determination, Maggie has been able to overcome chaos and disarray through most of Charlie’s life (Lloyd & Hastings 2009). In this context, the surge in Charlie’s disoriented behaviour during the absence of his mother signifies the lack of control and experience on Thomas’ part and highlights the determination necessary to take care of such individuals .Psychosocial perspectives in the movie 4
.Jean Piaget 4.1
Thomas’ growing frustration towards his brother and his eventual outbursts can be explained by Jean Piaget’s theory on the cognitive development of children (Guerin & Guerin 2009, p. 24). According to Piaget, cognitive development occurs through the assimilation and accommodation of schemas as perceived by the child (Guerin & Guerin 2009, p. 24). Here, schemas refer to sections of knowledge that help us categorize and understand the world around us (Guerin & Guerin 2009, p. 24).
Piaget’s theory describes it as the formal operational stage. It means that the adolescent provides all possible solutions before trying in the real world (Huitt et al 2003). The formal operational stage begins around age 11 and is fully achieved by age 15, bringing with it the capacity for abstraction. This permits adolescents to reason beyond a world of concrete reality to a world of possibilities and to operate logically on symbols and information that do not necessarily refer to objects and events in the real world. (Huitt et al 2003).
In the case of Thomas, his schema on Charlie was constantly building up into a negative image. As he experienced more of his tantrums, Thomas assimilated his actions to contribute to this schema. As the years passed by, Thomas’ attitude and mental perception of his brother grew stronger, although a different side of him continued to love him. )Erik Erikson (stage 5 4 .2
Thomas’ behaviour can also be explained through Erikson’s psychosocial stage theory (Guerin & Guerin 2009, p. 28). At each stage identified by this theory, the main criterion is the successful development of an ego identity. If the stage is handled inadequately, the individual may emerge with varying degrees of role confusion.
It appears that Thomas’ issues began during psychosocial stage 5 (identity versus identity confusion). During this stage, adolescents must make a conscious search for identity, either by learning themselves or by taking responsibility. First, they learn to talk about themselves and for others, and they learn what they need to get rid of it and whether others accept what they are talking about (Guerin & Guerin 2009, p. 29).
Second, they learn to take on adult roles, such as accepting liability, and they learn to do something unique and distinctive and take responsibility for others (Guerin & Guerin 2009, p. 29). This is the conflict that was witnessed by Thomas most of the time. Thomas is an adolescent who struggles to live and learn what he loves in life and eventually accepts the responsibility of care for his brother Charlie, especially after his mother enters the hospital. Thomas battles with role confusion and identity. Discussion4.3
According to Volkmar (2001, p. 25), people suffering from autism tend to keep to themselves and remain cut off from others. In the movie, Charlie is known to be an emotional character, although he likes to be so on his own terms. Growing up must have been difficult for Thomas, with a disabled sibling at home. Constant attention for Charlie must have meant that Thomas was unable to derive the full attention of his mother over the years and must have felt abandoned during this period. Achenbach (2005, p. 65-68) notes that it is tough to be a sibling of someone who has special needs. While there is no doubt that Thomas loved his brother and would protect him in all circumstances, it is also apparent that he grew frustrated with frequent embarrassments.
Perry (2005, p. 109) says that in a family like the Mollisons, the child with special needs requires extensive parental care. As he grew up, Thomas must have wanted his parents to care and worry for him just as they did for Charlie. Jordan (2001, p. 154-156) introduced another argument by saying that siblings of children with special needs feel like they have to maintain a tighter oversight over their personality (Mandelco et al. 2003). While Charlie threw constant tantrums and would yell annoyingly, he could still get away with it unpunished since he did not have much control over himself.
Thomas, on the other hand, could not resort to such behaviour and was expected to maintain control over his feelings like other normal children. Such stricter control within the home environment can also be another important factor that adds up to this frustration. As a result, Chakrabarti (2005) believes that living and negotiating through daily life in Thomas’ case turned into a complex web of several emotions. Several studies have been undertaken previously to understand the effects of having children with special needs in a family.
Many of these studies focus on the impact of disabled children on their siblings, whereby the conclusions are largely based on specific cases and are not based extensively on any objective frameworks. Some studies, such as one by Cooper and Morrison (2006), have utilized control groups in understanding effects on siblings and have identified a number of interesting conclusions. Primarily, the findings indicate that families such as the Mollisons have a number of problems to deal with. Ignoring even a single element in this scenario can exaggerate the role of the disabled child as a major cause in these problems. Secondly, most of these studies tend to collectively focus on multiple forms of autism and may therefore be partially appropriate in some cases .
Volkers (2007, p. 153-155) observes that parents often worry that their children (normal) may be at a risk of developing complexities due to the presence of autistic siblings around them, which often induces numerous behavioural issues in the normal child. In the case of The Black Balloon, Thomas did indeed have some behavioural issues, although there is no indication to suggest that his parents were particularly worried about the effects of Charlie’s behaviour on him.
Studies by Trevartehen (2008) on children with disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and spina bifida, have noted many behavioural issues among siblings, which deteriorate rapidly in the absence of proper care. He further found that as many as 60% of the siblings themselves suffered from learning difficulties. However, it is not very clear if such difficulties are genetically related to the disabled child or whether they are induced from the stress of having to live with an impaired child.
In the case of Thomas, he had clearly evolved into a shy individual, owing to his perceived embarrassments and also due to a constant feeling of being overshadowed by his sibling within his family (Baldridge, Eddleston & Veiga 2006). This may also suggest that Thomas was at the far end of his brother’s condition, which means that he was also susceptible to some of the problems exhibited by Charlie. In the case of the Mollisons, this certainly seems to be the case, especially when Charlie comes under the supervision of his brother.
However, there is no indication to suggest whether any genetic factors were influential in Thomas’ mental state and his perception of Charlie. The question of whether Thomas’ behaviour was influenced by environmental or genetic factors is therefore unclear. According to cognitive psychological theory, people actively interpret their environment and their world (Barkway 2009, p.7)..( Thomas also shows certain tendencies of fear and guilt as though he may have been responsible for Charlie’s mental condition in some way. Siegel (2006, p. 56) specifies several fears among such siblings that eventually affect their very own behaviour.
While Thomas clearly felt he was being treated unfairly by his parents, he was able to understand his mistakes and see the reason for Charlie’s situation with the help of his girlfriend. As evident in Thomas’ case, Brill (2001, p. 87) finds that siblings do not like to be given more household tasks, let alone take care of their impaired siblings for longer periods of time. Besides the effort and attention that Thomas needed to spend on Charlie, Thomas was also not happy with this responsibility or with Charlie’s tantrums.
This is referred to by Erickson in his theory of the fifth stage (identity versus identity confusion) in which adolescents like roles and responsibilities; that does not happen with Thoma s (Guerin & Guerin 2009, p. 29). Altiere and Kludge (2009) add that most of this work is normally handled by the mother in the family. As a result, the normal sibling does not have a clue of the amount of effort that it takes to bring up a disabled child. Once such responsibilities fall to them, the enormity of the task and the patience necessary to handle it effectively has an eventual toll on the normal sibling. This clearly was the situation in Thomas’ case .
Mesibov (2004, p. 168) has introduced other psychological elements in such households and believes that the presence of a mentally challenged sibling adds stress for the normal child. The latter may feel the need to work harder and over-achieve in order to compensate for the limitations of their affected siblings. Thomas was bound by such a condition and was always under constant compulsion to provide emotional support to his parents or attend to the needs of his brother. Unsurprisingly, these events generated enormous hostility and resentment for his brother, although he managed to adjust and adapt well to the greatest extent possible.
However, his feelings of shame and embarrassment were more visible, unlike the conclusions made by researchers like Symon (2001), who said that social contracts among siblings under such situations remain strong and largely unaffected. McGrath (2006) believes it is possible that Thomas’ parents may have assumed that any resentment or conflict would be resolvable and that Thomas was mature enough to understand his brother’s condition (Gray 2006). According to Brill (2001, p. 84), the risks of frustration and difficulties to siblings tend to be greatest among smaller families.
The risks tend to be higher especially among siblings who have a smaller age gap and in families with just two children. The major reason provided for this tendency is that larger families have more capacity in sharing the burden, which can help accommodate for any deficiencies in parental attention (Lin et al. 2011). Moreover, more family members implies that parents have a better support structure to help them overcome the sorrow of having an impaired child at home, as they can find happiness in the normal growth of other children in the family. Besides fulfilling all these aspects, Thomas was also younger than Charlie and therefore had to miss out on some of the parental care that would normally have been accorded to him.
Once again, the risks of fallout among siblings tend to be higher as the age gap is reduced. Schopler (2003, p. 159) further states that the problems tend to be exacerbated when the normal sibling happens to be male, as they are inexperienced and under-equipped at normal chores within the house. Based on these arguments, it is evident that Thomas was indeed influenced by all these characteristics, which subsequently forced him to act with hostility against his brother during the initial part of the story.
Health professionals use psychological theories to identify human behaviour, and they can become effective at it with practice through the development of education and training in the field (Whitehead & Russell 2004, p.163). The theory of development stages can help health professionals to provide better care for individuals, and accordingly, they need to understand each stage according and the appropriate age categories. Behavioural-change health education programmes can result in positive change (Whitehead & Russell2004, p.163). Conclusion5
The preceding sections have highlighted some of the key psychosocial factors that played a key role in shaping the attitude, thinking and behaviour of Thomas Mollison with respect to his impaired brother, Charlie. The analysis has depended on numerous conclusions from previous studies to draw comparisons and depict information on the film’s various characters and to examine the ways in which psychological factors affected Thomas. In addition to being frustrated by his brother’s tantrums, it appears that Thomas was also influenced by the greater care his brother was receiving at home.
It is possible that a growing hostile nature in Thomas could have been genetic in nature, given his sibling’s antics, although this is not verifiable within the context of the movie. It also seems that Thomas was not prepared either mentally or physically to take care of his brother. After the whole episode of his mother requiring rest, a major responsibility had been thrust on him without a moment’s notice. In the end, Thomas is successful in fulfilling his duties as a brother and empathizes with his skewed world with the help of his girlfriend.