The Peanut Butter Falcon by Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwarz is a wish-fulfilment, odd-couple odyssey with a deliciously 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 down Georgia’s peaceful waterways towards Florida like a present-day Huckleberry Finn.
The Peanut Butter Falcon gets over any misgivings over the disability of its central character to become a wish fulfilment, odd-couple odyssey with a soft heart. Young Zack (Zack Gottsagen), who has Down’s Syndrome, escapes in his underpants 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-attracting 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 surrogate family who try to make Zack’s innocent dreams come true.
All this takes place amid the most stunning scenery of the southern states of the US as the three’s road trip wends its way through unspoilt, deserted 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 screened at the 63rd BFI London Film Festival as the Love Gala film and is released on 18 October in the UK.