6 Balloons on Netflix: A New Look at Addiction and Relapse

In the opening scenes of 6 Balloons we see the optimistic preparations for a suburban birthday party getting underway. Cool-boxes are filled with beer, green and purple pastel balloons are ferried from the supermarket and a woman hangs bunting on a stool that we can see is teetering precariously beneath her.

It’s an obvious but potent metaphor for what is about to be pulled from beneath her feet and the instability lurking under this middle-class family.

The Netflix original drama which centers on a sister’s quest to find a detox center for her brother is based on a true story.

The new Netflix film 6 Balloons, released last Friday (April 6), promises a new kind of heroin drama.

Set over the course of one evening, 6 Balloons starts when Katie’s (Abbi Jacobson of Broad City) brother Seth (Dave Franco) fails to turn up to a family party. After going in search of him she finds piles of unopened mail and her brother, relapsed into heroin addiction. They spend the night driving across Los Angeles in search of a detox centre with his two-year-old daughter in the back of the car.

It’s an impressive change of pace for two actors primarily known for significantly lighter material, but despite how quickly we leave the friendly family house for bleaker settings, their comedic talents still come through in the jibes between siblings.

The pair spend the night searching for a detox center that will admit Seth, while he suffers from withdrawals.

“It’s not a film about easy solutions and we’re under no illusions that what we see in the short running time is just a brief chapter in what may or may not be the start of a long road to recovery,” according to a Guardian review of 6 Balloons.

Actor Dave Franco said he was drawn to the film because it added nuance, a new perspective, to the addiction film genre.

“We’ve all seen movies about heroin addicts before, but I’d never seen one about a heroin addict who came from an upper-middle class family and seemingly has no reason to resort to these hard drugs,” he said in a recent People interview.

Franco talked in-depth about how the heavy role inevitably consumed him. He lost 25 pounds for the film, running so much that he had to go to physical therapy to heal the damage he’d done to his knee.

It was hard not to let his work affect his personal life. “When you lose that much weight it affects you. I was depressed while we were filming this movie,” he said.

He described getting lost in documentaries about heroin addiction to research his role, which he said “also contributed to why I was so depressed.”

“I felt like I was in this dark heroin tunnel for a couple of months, and I was just not the most fun person to be around,” said the actor.

Even Franco’s wife, actress Alison Brie, noticed the effect that playing Seth had on the actor. “I came home and my wife Alison called me out and said you’re not yourself, you’re not fun to be around. I said I’m fucking starving, what do you want from me?” he joked.

Another unique aspect of the film, acknowledged by both the Guardian review and Franco, is the actors’ ability to bring some levity to the film, thanks to their comedic backgrounds.

“Even during these really heavy circumstances, we’re still able to make fun of each other and find the humor in these dark moments, which feels very familiar,” said Franco.