My first film of the BFI London Film Festival this year was the much anticipated Peanut Butter Falcon. A comedy drama following Zak, a young man with down syndrome who escapes from an assisted living facility, and Tyler, a fisherman on the run, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a genuine delight.
Writers and directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz wanted to make a film with Zack Gottsagen since they met him, and Zack is a clear inspiration for the character of Zak in the film. Zak is a character who dreams of being a wrestler, inspired by an old video he watches of a wrestler named The Salt Water Redneck. As Zak begins to travel with Tyler the two quickly develop a strong bond, and Tyler encourages Zak to chase his dream.
The relationship between Zak and Tyler is such a sweet and touching one and the performances of Gottsagen and Shia LaBeouf, who plays Tyler, are fantastic. This is a star making role for Gottsagen, and what may well be the best performance of LaBeouf’s career.
There is a lot to love in the film aside from the two central performances, as it is a wonderful, uplifting, and heartwarming story with Zak chasing his dreams and not allowing his disability to hold him back in any way thanks to his unlikely friendship with Tyler. The humour in the film is great as well, Nilson and Schwartz’s script is very sharp and Gottsagen and LaBeouf deliver the comedy brilliantly.
There is an excellent supporting cast alongside the main two. Dakota Johnson plays Eleanor, the social worker tasked with finding Zak, and whilst her character may be a little underwritten and thin, she does a reasonable job with it. Thomas Haden Church plays The Salt Water Redneck, and although it is only a small role he’s fantastic.
On the whole The Peanut Butter Falcon is just a delightful and heartwarming experience. Funny and touching, this is truly the feel good film of the year. Zack Gottsagen is fantastic, and Shia LaBeouf shows a deft touch with his performance that is often missing.