The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) is an American comedy-drama that premiered at South by Southwest earlier this year. Directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, this film stars Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson and is the feature debut of Zack Gottsagen. When Zak (Gottsagen), a 22-year old with Down Syndrome escapes from an assisted living facility and makes friends with fisherman Tyler (LaBeouf), it is up to social worker Eleanor (Johnson) to find Zak and make sure he is safe.
I love the fact that this film focuses on the subject of Down Syndrome and highlights the people who live with the diagnosis in such a positive light. The film highlights the struggles and bullying that people with Down Syndrome have to go through but also shows the kindness that other people offer to them. It is great when filmmakers decide to tell a story like this, and it makes this one of the most important films released this year to me.
Every single person in this film is fantastic in their roles, but the stand out here is easily Zack Gottsagen as Zak. He grabs your attention right from the start of the film and his character is so caring and loving that you can’t help but want him to be happy and achieve all of his goals. Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson also give fantastic performances here and I cannot wait to continue seeing them in more films.
At 97 minutes long, this film is short but feels complete. I never felt that this film rushed any aspects of the story or that anything was particularly left out to keep a short runtime. The film also got a lot of different subplots into the short runtime without feeling the need to have further exploration of them. These subplots all felt important to the story and the character development, which lead to well-rounded characters the audience can get behind.
The majority of this film is taking place on a journey, both physically and mentally for several of the characters. Both aspects work well, as the script makes you care about both journeys equally. There are bumps and issues that happen with the journeys, but they were well written and placed throughout the film. In terms of physical journeys in film, this might be one of the best I have seen in a long while.
I did, however, have several problems with this film despite how loving and charming it is. I had major problems with how the assisted living facility and social workers are depicted here. It may not be a major aspect of the film after the first part of the film, but I do not see a situation where this incident happens and the case is treated the way it is here. It took me out of the film a bit to see the lack of care that a care home would have for one of their patients and how Eleanor was acting throughout the film. It seemed completely unrealistic to me and I wish that perhaps more care was taken on that aspect of the film.
I am also not a huge fan of the last twenty minutes of the film. This is a film that, for me, the journey is more entertaining and important than the final destination. Whilst I understand what the film was going on, the ending to me feels a little bit rushed and doesn’t let the audience have time to sit and reflect what happened before the credits roll. If this film slowed down just a little bit at the end and gave the audience some breathing space, I think the ending would have vastly improved and hit emotionally harder.
This is a feel-good film that talks about a subject matter that is rarely touched in major release films and gives Down Syndrome a spotlight in a positive matter. I may have problems with the narrative and the ending, but this is a film I can see myself loving even more on repeat viewings. If you need a shorter film that will make you leave filled with love and cheerful, this is a great film for you.
Have you had a chance to see The Peanut Butter Falcon? Were you warmed by the story and the message like I was? Let me know in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.