Follow Your Dreams
One of the most surprisingly-polarizing and uplifting films of the year so far is “The Peanut Butter Falcon”, which finally hits theaters in Saint Louis this weekend. Following the store of a young adult with Down syndrome, Zak (Zack Gottsagen) finds-himself fed up with his mundane life. In-awe of his hero, the professional wrestler named The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), Zak sets-off to his wrestling camp located in North Carolina. During his early travels, he encounters a fellow on-the-run man named Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). Fresh-off the massive destruction of a competitors gear, he finds himself trying to survive on his own with no money in his pocket. After feeling a compulsion to help Zak, Tyler allows him to join his trek under one condition, which is that he doesn’t slow him down. During their journey, they encounter Zak’s caretaker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) who’s desperately searching for him. After some persuasion, Tyler shows Eleanor that Zak’s in great hands and that he should be allowed to live. The three then continue their journey, which is filled with fun, surprise, and friendship from start-to-finish; encountering danger along the way.
Directors Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz have truly made a remarkable, human film. Much like a (almost) modern day Mark Twain story, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is all about the human spirit, the journey of life, and dealing with the cards your dealt; it’s a beautiful story of longing for acceptance and friendship. Gottsagen is sublime, owning his character’s strengths and weaknesses; you cannot take your eyes off his polarizing performances. LaBeouf gives the strongest turn of his career, as his emotions seem raw and authentic; sharing a natural, formidable chemistry with Johnson. The extended cast features John Hawkes, Church, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal, and Yelawolf rounding-out an impressive, well-rounded cast.
The strength of the film is its heart, giving a rare cinematic experience for its viewers. “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is truly one of the most uplifting, heartwarming films in recent memory. While it by no means sugarcoats the various challenges and ignorance people with Down syndrome face; Gottsagen fully embraces his birthright and owns it! The film flows smoothly during its 93 minute running time as the journey sails across the screen. I had the pleasure to bring one of my former students with Down syndrome and his parents to the screening of the film and it truly was a one-of-a-kind experience. During the Q&A after the film, a moviegoer suggested that, as a social worker, they loved how the film wasn’t about a kid dealing with Down syndrome but how it was a film about a kid who happens to have it. They also said the film will be immensely helpful in-teaching those unaware that they are still normal people, just with some slight restrictions. While I whole-heartedly agree with his sentiment, I also believe “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is a strongly important film that’s both entertaining and wholesome; it leaves you with a smile on your face and on your soul!
Every once in a while, a film comes around that restores your faith in humanity and “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is that film!
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON is rated PG-13 for thematic content, language throughout, some violence and smoking, in theaters AUGUST 23RD!