Film Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

A feel good adventure film

By Narelle Wood

From the moment it starts, The Peanut Butter Falcon establishes itself as an adventure film, with one of the film’s protagonists, Zak, destined to take us on an interesting, and as it turns out heart-felt, journey.

Zak (Zak Gottsagen) has down syndrome, and with no family or anyone to take care of him, he finds himself living in a retirement home under the watchful eye of Eleanor (Dakota Johnson). After Zak escapes to pursue his dream of learning to wrestle, he meets Tyler (Shia Labeouf), who after some trouble, is trying to escape his life and start anew elsewhere. While Zak and Tyler start to make their way down to Florida, Eleanor is out searching for Zak, eager to return Zak to safety. As with any good adventure story there is a lot to keep Zak and Tyler on their toes; near misses by bandits and boats, some near drownings and some not so friendly gun fire.

While this is an adventure story, likened to a modern day tale of Huckleberry Finn, this is also a story of redemption. Tyler is grappling with his past, and some more recent choices, and it is Zak who quickly helps him get in touch with his more caring side. Eleanor is forced to face up to her part in keeping Zak in less than ideal accomodation; Zak is young, clever and determined to pursue his dreams. And as for Zak, he has an opportunity to learn his limitations and push past more than a few assumptions he has about himself.

Written and Directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, this film captures the way people are able to bring out the best in each other, and that family is sometimes the people you chose. The scenery is beautiful, and Nilson and Schwartz use the setting to their advantage making it an integral part of the adventure, providing refuge, as well as causing some trouble. Similar to the raft the duo travel on for much of the film, the story drifts along with purpose but at an easy pace; if anything everyone seems to come to grips with their personal struggles rather quickly and easily, but this does allow the space for some moments of action at the end of the film.

Labeouf and Johnson are great in their troublemaker and do-gooder roles, but Gottsagen is superb providing most of the films highlights and some laugh-out-loud moments. What’s particularly lovely about the film, is that it doesn’t shy away from exploring the difficulties someone with down syndrome experiences – it raises some significant questions about the way we treat people with disabilities – but the story is also about so much more than this one aspect of Zak’s character.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a feel good adventure story, and worth watching just to see the Peanut Butter Falcon come in to being.

Now playing in cinemas.