A feel-good movie if I’ve ever seen one, I found myself widely smiling throughout the entirety of The Peanut Butter Falcon. The film follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a 22-year-old young man with Down Syndrome, as he escapes the residential nursing home that he’s been living in; he attempts to make his way to a wrestling school that he saw on an old VHS tape because his dream is to become a professional wrestler. On his way, he comes across Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who is running from the bad decisions that he’s made and the people who want to make him pay for those bad decisions.
Though Zak escapes the nursing home, that doesn’t necessarily mean that no one there cares about him. When he escapes Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) , the social worker who works at said nursing home, goes looking for him and from then on the film embarks on a journey of joyous proportions. The films tells a story of an unlikely friendship, the chemistry between Shia and Zack is at the root of this story and it’s what drives it all home for me. Personally, I believe that Shia is at his career-best in this film; he plays every nuance perfectly and is the perfect scene-partner for Zack.
Zack Gottsagen is the shining star of this film. The film in its entirety allowed Zack to be respected and celebrated, it didn’t talk down to him or pander to him; it gave him liberty to be his most authentic self. Zack is a phenomenal actor, not only is his comedic timing absolutely perfect but his body language adds a multitude of layers to every scene. The Peanut Butter Falcon wonderfully allowed his talent to shine and I expect him to be praised during Awards season.
All this is not to say that the film completely ignores the difficulties that people with Down Syndrome face on a daily basis, but it doesn’t allow that to take center stage. There’s a beautiful scene between Tyler and Eleanor where Tyler explains how though, she’s not talking down to him, the fact that she’s limiting what he can do is a way of saying Zak is less-than. Which is one example of how this film steers the narrative that we often see surrounding people with Down Syndrome.
I don’t want to speak too soon but dare I say, The Peanut Butter Falcon may just be my favorite film of 2019. The world is slowly falling apart but this film gave me a moment a levity that was absolutely much-needed. Please, please go watch this film!