Mike Schwartz and Tyler Nilson’s feature length debut, ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ sees Zack Gottsagen and Shia LaBeouf star in a buddy adventure movie that is definitely worth your time and attention. Gottsagen, plays Zak a young man with Down syndrome who escapes the care home he’s been living in. In the midst of his escape he encounters Tyler, played by LaBeouf and the pair team up in order to leave behind the lives they’ve lead up until now.
It’s extremely rare for a film to have such great representation for those with Down syndrome. Zak isn’t a token character here, or simply featured to complete a tick box exercise, instead he’s a main character and the beating heart of this film. It is so important for those with Down Syndrome to see themselves on screen and for their stories to be told, and this has not been the case nearly enough. ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ endeavors to change this and succeeds wonderfully. Gottsagen, an actor who himself has Down syndrome excels in the role delivering an excellent central performance of this well rounded character. His chemistry with co-stars LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson who plays his social worker is instant. This is especially the case with LaBeouf though, the film spends the majority of its runtime exploring the bond their two characters make and the developing relationship is completely convincing thanks to strength of both their performances.
The narrative told here tells the story of two men brought together by chance who go on to enrich each others lives through their shared experiences. This story offers a truly enriching cinematic journey, with Zak and Tyler’s bromance being one of the most endearing seen on screen in recent years. Furthermore, the screenplay includes vital discussions about the stigma that surrounds Down syndrome that have rarely been showcased on screen before. These moments are informative and eye-opening and should go a long way in encouraging audiences not to dismiss individuals based on the preconceived limitations that have been unjustly placed upon them by society. As a result of this, and several other plot points ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ is an emotional film that will strike a chord with many. However, it’s also delightfully funny and allows for a lot of humour throughout its runtime.
Ultimately ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ is a fantastic debut for Schwartz and Nilson as they both demonstrate their talent and abilities as writers and directors. The main three performers are all brilliant in their respective roles and excel even further in them when they all share the screen together. They are supported superbly by a string of smaller performances too as Zak and Tyler encounter a diverse group of characters on their travels, always keeping things interesting and unpredictable. However, it’s the natural and effortless representation that should be celebrated most here and hopefully ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ paves the way for this to be commonplace on the big screen from now on.
Written by Hamish Calvert
STAR RATING – ★★★★
Question: What is your favourite buddy film?
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Thanks to Queens Film Theatre for screening access