“6 Balloons” is a Netflix original film starring Abbi Jacobson and Dave Franco, focusing on the very important issue of substance abuse and addiction. In the film, Seth (Dave Franco) suffers from a heroin addiction and reluctantly accepts the aid of his sister Katie (Abbi Jacobson) when she discovers he has relapsed.
Seth is an adoring father who, even in times of pain and withdrawal, prioritizes his daughter. When he is suffering withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, Seth begs Katie to keep her away, fearful of his daughter becoming traumatized by his condition. This tension between his intentions and his actions is constant throughout the film.
The sincerity and normality of Seth’s character makes it easy for the audience to develop empathy towards him. He was an average person with an average life. He even admits to his sister that nothing traumatic has happened in his life, which means that Seth seemingly has no event or memory to attribute his addiction to. He was an average citizen, and he is just as susceptible to addiction as any other average citizen.
Despite the spotlight on Seth’s addiction, the film mainly focuses on the perspective of those around Seth and how they are affected by his addiction, specifically Katie. Katie, in the midst of preparing for her boyfriend’s surprise birthday party, must drop everything in order to help her brother.
At first, Katie is purely angry. She’s angry that she has to put her life on pause to “fix” her brother’s “mistake.” She’s mad that he relapsed after she helped him last time. She’s mad that she has to take him to a detox clinic, then potentially pay for his treatment. She has a right to be angry, but the negative emotion does not allow her to give Seth the emotional support he truly needs.
Katie soon becomes consumed with a feeling of helplessness. She feels as if there is no opportunity for her brother to change or completely heal. She feels suffocated by the burden of her brother’s condition. Katie cannot abandon her brother, but she feels as though she cannot be relieved of her personal pain without eliminating Seth’s.
The film often compares Katie’s overwhelming sense of different emotions (care, fear, anger, devastation, helplessness, etc.) to drowning. Frequent scenes in the film depict both her and Seth drowning in a car, in which case Katie instinctively goes to unbuckle — and essentially free — Seth first.
In the last scene of the film, however, Katie admits to her brother that she cannot drive her brother to the clinic, symbolizing the idea that, although she can push her brother to heal and detox, she cannot push her brother to want to heal and detox. The scene then cuts to her and Seth drowning in a car yet again, but this time Katie then opens the door and frees herself.
“6 Balloons” is a phenomenal representation of how addiction can affect not only the person abusing the substance, but also the people around them. The film is truly heartfelt and triggers emotions that make the movie memorable. The film embarks on the reiterated idea that one must first save themselves before saving another.