Zak runs away from his care home to make his dream of becoming a wrestler come true.
Sometimes all that’s required is a film to put a smile on your face, and ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ achieves this and then some. A hit at the Sundance film festival, it’s an odd road movie (or river movie to be precise) about a young wrestling fanatic with Down’s syndrome and a troubled fisherman who hasn’t recovered from his brother’s death. Somehow, these two lost souls find one another and embark on a journey, both running away from something, and one running towards something. It’s incredibly sweet, funny and has a really compelling performance from Shia LaBeouf at its heart and I really enjoyed it.
Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a 22 year old man with Down’s syndrome, who lives in a North Carolina retirement home and spends his day watching wrestling videos and attempting to escape, without success for the most part. When one attempt succeeds with the aid of his elderly roommate Carl (Bruce Dern, just one of many terrific supporting cast members), Zak hides in a small fishing boat, which just happens to be the boat Tyler (LaBeouf) uses to escape after committing arson on some rival fishermen. After initially leaving one another, they form a pact to stick together with Tyler promising to help Zak get to the wrestling school from the videos he was obsessed with. Dakota Johnson is the third lead as Eleanor, Zak’s carer at the home, who ends up searching for Zak after his escape and finds herself caught up in his and Tyler’s quest. The writings of Mark Twain (namely the character of Huckleberry Finn) form the inspiration for this story and filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz manage to find modern relevance to craft this story. Newcomer Gottsagen’s performance feels genuinely natural and improvised, and alongside him Shia LaBeouf has a role that allows him to show off his talents, talents that haven’t always been on show as much as they could have been.
A genuinely feelgood movie, ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ is a charming piece of filmmaking about two men who form a friendship through circumstance, and set out to achieve a small moment of happiness in a world that hasn’t always gone the way they wanted it too. This is American independent cinema at its finest and you won’t regret spending some time with this film and these characters.
Directed By: Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, Thomas Haden Church, Jon Bernthal, Mick Foley, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and Yelawolf