6 Balloons: The Perspective of an Addict’s Family


Graphic by: Mandira Gowda

Emery Davis


Visually appealing, emotionally stimulating and inspiring, Netflix’s 2018 film, “6 Balloons” is sure to tug on heartstrings and leave viewers with some food for thought and a new perspective.

“6 Balloons” follows a woman named Katie – played by Abbi Jacobson – over the course of a night as she searches for a detox center in hopes of opening the gates toward sobriety for her heroin-addicted brother, Seth – played by Dave Franco. To add more stress to an already difficult situation, Seth’s 2-year-old daughter, Ella, rides along in the backseat as she watches her father face both drug-induced euphoria and intense withdrawals.

The film is focused mainly on Katie and the inner demons she faces as an outcome of her brother’s addiction and struggle with codependency. While trying to juggle pressure in her own life as well as her brother’s, she feels as if she’s drowning, gasping for air.

“6 Balloons,” is just an hour and 15 minutes long, which unfortunately leaves multiple questions unanswered. In fact, it seems as if the film ends just as it’s really beginning. The film is just a short glimpse into what addicts’ families face as they watch their loved ones spiral out of control. 

Though it’s rather short, the film is sure to have viewers’ attention, as director Marja-Lewis Ryan uses Katie’s sensation and hallucinations of drowning as a perfect metaphor for the turmoil Seth has caused her and everyone around him. Despite this, Katie will do most anything for her brother because of the bond they’ve built from the day they became siblings.

Franco’s convincing portrayal of an addict is powerful and emotion-packed, as it shows the ugly truth to a struggling group of people in our society today. Franco’s raw performance helps the audience see addicts as people who need help, rather than emotionally numb vessels stumbling through life searching for the next high. The bond between Seth and his daughter is touching, but only makes viewers more anxious to find out what will happen to the both of them. Not only does this father-daughter connection add an element of tension to the film, but also can be rather frustrating, as the viewer sees how drugs affect their relationship and Ella’s emotions. Which again, goes to show how serious addictions begin to affect not only the user, but anybody who cares for them or depends on them.

Overall the film seems like more of a character portrait of Katie and Seth, rather than a story, since it takes place in just one night and again, leaves several loose ends at the conclusion of the film. It doesn’t leave room for a story to develop, for sobriety to be established or for an addict’s multiple and inevitable relapses to be shown.

“6 Balloons” has a strong sense of direction, but the drive behind the story is simply lacking. Though it may not be considered a story by everyone, the film is still effective in presenting the bystander’s perspective in these circumstances. It strongly depicts the repetitive and painful desire to help the people we love, even if it isn’t our own burden to bear, which isn’t often covered in such depth in other films of this nature. This movie is thought-provoking and deep – a must-see for deep thinkers, people with or without similar experiences and those who appreciate more the more raw and emotional films the industry has to offer.