James Franco and Abbi Jacobson Star in Netflix Film About Addiction

Netflix 6 Balloons

New Films Addresses the Loneliness of Addiction

Netflix has produced a new film starring James Franco and Abbi Jacobson that takes an intimate look at a family dealing with the impact of addiction.

As reviewed by the Daily Dot, 6 Balloons, which debuted at SXSW on Monday, tells the story of Katie (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson) a woman who’s trying to plan a surprise birthday party for her boyfriend. But as the day goes on she discovers that her brother, Seth (Dave Franco), a heroin addict has begun using again. She begins the search to get him into a detox center with no avail. Meanwhile, he’s taking care of his 2-year-old daughter Ella and going through withdrawal in front of her. 

Film Spoilers
The film examines the depths to which seemingly responsible family members will go to try to protect their addicted family. Katie is coerced into buying Seth heroin and then acquiring a needle for him to inject in the bathroom of a pharmacy. The use triggers a euphoric response from Seth as they attend the birthday party. His family recognizes the tell-tale signs of his high and Seth provides more promises about his sobriety. The film culminates with Katie deciding to no longer enable his behavior and stepping away

Writer and director Marja-Lewis Ryan explains that when dealing with addiction, “the loneliness inside those dark moments is almost more crippling… not being able to talk about the things; not knowing where to talk. If this isn’t your story, then maybe you can gain a little empathy for people who are experiencing this. And if it is your story, hopefully, you can feel a little less lonely.”

The film expertly shows how an upper-class life and even parenthood can exist along-side what many consider to be the depths of substance abuse – IV drug use. Perhaps if the general public is made more aware that this is the reality for so many people, it will be treated with the attention it deserves. Casting in the movie was very well done. Dave Franco plays the charming, all too likable boy-next-door, selling the reality that this can happen to anyone. Direct Marja-Lewis Ryan confirms on his casting of Franco “That was a really important quality because I wanted the audience to understand why Katie was helping him and enabling him, and Seth’s charm made that easier to buy.” 6 Balloons, named for the balloons heroin is sold in, shows the reality of how a father, loving brother, and witty member of your family can hide and struggle with a vice such as heroin addiction.

Furthermore, the film explores the extremely tenuous subject of enabling a drug user. When someone you love is in pain, or even in danger because of withdrawals, it can be extremely hard to turn your back on them. Katie, in the first parts of the film, does the right thing seeking treatment for him. In an all too real portrayal, the detox centers were unable to admit him and he was left to his own devices.

The film is currently at 86% on rotten tomatoes and 54% of audiences ‘liked it’. Reviews are consistent with their praise of the actors’ work and their handling of the subject matter. The criticism for the film hinges on its very brief time on the subject matter. It feels like but a fleeting glance of what is in actuality a long endeavor of dealing with addiction in the family. It is true the film only clocks in at 70 minutes and may feel more like a sketch in character portrayal rather than a full-fledged movie. This is, of course, where Netflix can succeed and where films like this can succeed where they would not in the movie theatre.

Would we suggest watching 6 Balloons? It is objectively a good movie with an important subject matter. We think that the ideal audience for it is the populace who is not familiar with the opioid epidemic and how it can be hiding in plain sight. For this audience, it may shock the viewer into the realization that heroin abuse isn’t the homeless person slumped over in a dark tunnel. It can be in your family, adjacent to the surprise party. For those in early recovery or have loved ones in recovery, this may be territory that can trigger strong reactions. While the movie does not in any way glorify drug use, it’s depiction of it may trigger memories and pain best left alone for more time.

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction, lying to yourself and others? Don’t wait any longer to ask for help. In today’s environment, you never know when your next dose will be your last!

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