The Peanut Butter Falcon transcends initial discomfort to become a wish fulfilment, odd-couple odyssey with a soft centre.
Sweet Heartsby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Oh to be on that home-made raft with Shia LaBeouf, Zack Gottsagen and Dakota Johnson, drifting lazily like Huckleberry Finn down Georgia’s peaceful waterway towards Florida.
The Peanut Butter Falcon gets over its initial discomfort to become a wish fulfilment, odd-couple odyssey with a soft heart. Young Zack (Zack Gottsagen), who has Down’s Syndrome, escapes in his pants through the barred window of the care home for the elderly that the state has incarcerated him in. He’s obsessed with wrestling videos and he’s determined to get to Florida, to enrol in the wrestling school he believes his hero The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church) runs. Clueless about how to cope on his own for the first time, on the way he’s rescued by a reluctant travelling companion, a laid-back, trouble-seeking crab fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf, better than you’ve ever seen him) who’s on the run too.
The odd couple slowly accommodate to each other and soon they’re joined by sympathetic care assistant Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), who stands to lose her job at the care home if she doesn’t track Zack down and return him. But on the way, minds change, relationships blossom, and somehow or other the three turn into a kind of family who try to make dreams come true for Zack in his innocence.
All this takes place in the most mind-blowing scenery of the southern states as the road trip wends its way through unspoilt backwaters from Georgia to Florida. We see some of the best of rural America and it brings out some of the best in people. The Peanut Butter Falcon is beautiful, sentimental and oh, so sweet. It’s not exploitative of its Down’s Syndrome central actor, who holds his own brilliantly against the experienced cast members, and it could well restore your faith in human nature. And America.
The Peanut Butter Falcon screens at the BFI London Film Festival as the Love Gala film on 3, 4 and 11 October and is released on 18 October in the UK.