The Netflix original movie 6 Balloons, starring David Franco and Abbi Jacobson, offers audiences an insider’s look into addiction and how it impacts everyone who is touched by it.
The premise of the film centers on a brother and sister who are extremely close to one another, despite the fact that the brother is addicted to heroin. Seth, played by actor David Franco, is a young man who is continuously grappling with heroin addiction and has found himself using once again. His sister, Katie, who is played by Abbi Jacobson, is completely and entirely co-dependent on him, causing her to enable him almost to his death. Tagging along for the entire movie is David’s daughter Ella, who is 2 years old and witness to a day filled with extreme situations centered on her father’s heroin addiction, withdrawal, and eventual continuation of his substance abuse.
6 Balloons begins with Katie setting up for a surprise party for her boyfriend’s birthday with her family and friends, all of whom are characters in their own rights. Katie is very detailed, caring, and non-combative, and is making sure everything is perfect for the party. When she goes to pick up Seth, however, she finds that he is behaving similarly to how he did when he was abusing heroin the last time (such as not opening his mail and seeming withdrawn). She finally gets him to fess up that he is, in fact, abusing heroin again, and they quickly make their way to the detox center instead of the party. When the detox center informs Katie that they do not accept David’s insurance, they make their way to another detox center that does. After having no success at the second detox center, Katie drives Seth to get more heroin and needles so he stops suffering from withdrawal pain.
Throughout the course of the movie, David Franco perfectly depicts the ups and downs that heroin addicts can experience in between hits, and how those changes in behavior, mood, and wellbeing impact everyone around him, especially his daughter. With it being almost too painful to watch, Seth’s addictive behaviors and tendencies continue to cause excessive trauma to his daughter, who is looking on the entire time. His sister Katie is also clearly traumatized and disturbed, as she works to do whatever she can to keep control of an obviously uncontrollable situation.
During the film, the audience has been guided by what sounds like a self-help podcast throughout a number of scenes. This podcast talks about how getting on a boat that is not stable can and will lead to an eventual drowning by anyone who attempts to stay aboard. Working as a symbol for addiction, the boat represents Seth and the person who is attempting to control the sinking ship represents Katie. At the end of the movie, the podcast states, “there will always be a boat at the end of the dock. But tell yourself, you can choose whether or not to board”.
How 6 Balloons Depicts Real-Life Addiction
Of course, after watching this movie, it is obvious how deeply affected David Franco’s character Seth is by his heroin addiction. He goes back and forth from being entirely detached from his surroundings to hyperactively engaged with his daughter and sister. He spends hours on end vomiting, sweating, and experiencing muscle cramps while he detoxes, and he develops a sense of peaceful euphoria once he uses again. And, despite his challenges, it shows in his face and within his eyes that he is in fact feeling trapped and unable to stop his use and that he wants help but just doesn’t see how it will ever work.
Katie, on the other hand, perfectly portrays the challenges that the loved one of an addict can experience at any given moment. She starts the movie feeling nervous that her brother is using once more, and then becomes disappointed and worried to find out that he is using after all. With a sense of urgency and determination to help Seth get the care he needs, she sacrifices all other plans that day to get him into detox, only to find that this is a crazy dance that she cannot keep up with. Her patience and morals are both tested and compromised upon having to obtain both heroin and needles for her brother to stop his withdrawal symptoms, all while trying to care for her toddler-aged niece. Her entire being is devoted to her brother’s needs, and by the end of the movie, she realizes just how deadly that can be. So, she “jumps ship” to save herself—a move that many loved ones of addicts have to make in order to survive.
Seth’s daughter Ella, young and impressionable, spends this chaotic day crying when her dad is visibly ill and overjoyed when he is back on his high. She is not anyone’s priority during the film; rather her needs (such as a diaper change) stand in the way of the goals that Seth and Katie are trying to accomplish.
For each of these characters, these depictions ring true for people who are in situations very similar to this in real life. For example, children are often the most traumatized and neglected individuals in the cycle of addiction, as they struggle to express and understand the emotions they are having when watching a loved one continually abuse one or more substances. Additionally, they are typically put in situations that children should never be in, such as being in the car during a drug deal, at home waiting for dinner to be made when his or her parent is passed out from use, and so on.
Katie is reflective of the many different siblings, parents, spouses, friends, and other loved ones who are close with someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. When an individual has a loved one that is abusing one or more substances, he or she can run the gamut of emotions, such as anxiety, fear, stress, depression, and hopelessness. Many individuals in Katie’s situation have had to walk away from their loved ones in order to keep their own heads above water. Sadly, many people have chosen to stay aboard and have drowned with the user.
During 6 Balloons, Seth suggests to Katie that she bring him to Pasadena Recovery Center. At Pasadena, we are a 98-bed facility where all kinds of individuals who are struggling with addiction like Seth can get the help they need to finally stop.
If you or someone you care for is addicted to heroin or any other drugs, it’s time to get help. Reaching out for treatment is often the hardest step to take, however, it is the one step that can save you or a loved one’s life.
And, if you are a loved one of someone who is addicted, you can get help, too. You do not need to go down with the ship. Make the decision today to obtain the support that you need to make it through. Contact Pasadena Recovery Center today.