The Peanut Butter Falcon: The BRWC Review. Zak (Zack Gottsagen) has been living in a retirement home ever since his parents died. He’s made friends there, but only being in his early twenties he knows that it’s not where he is meant to be.
Zak watches wrestling regularly on TV with one of the residents, Carl (Bruce Dern) and has struck up a friendship with one of the care workers, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson). Then one day Zak sees an advert for a wrestling school and decides to escape to achieve his dreams of becoming a professional wrestler.
The trouble is that after his parents died, the state didn’t know what to do with somebody with Down Syndrome like Zak, so despite his previous attempts to escape he was always brought back – but this time it’s different. With a little help from Carl, a gap in the bars over the windows and a lot of soap, Zak escapes and goes on the run to meet his hero, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Hayden Church).
Whilst on the run, Zak stows away in a boat. However, unbeknownst to Zak, the boat’s owner, Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) is also on the run and Duncan (John Hawkes) is determined to chase him down to get the money he owes him, or something very bad could happen to Tyler. Meanwhile, Eleanor has been tasked with chasing down Zak to bring him back to the retirement home, but when all three of them find each other they learn to embrace life and see where it takes them.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is a great film, not only naturally giving its audience a better understanding of Down Syndrome, but leaving its audience feeling good while never makes the characters or story too sickly sweet. The cast are superb from the always reliable Bruce Dern, Shia LaBeouf’s charming and straight forward small-time crook, Dakota Johnson’s caring and sincere health worker and of course the breakout performance from Zak Gottsagen, who gives the film a likeable and fleshed out protagonist whose time on screen is a joy to witness.
Considering writer/directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz found Zak Gottsagen and believed in his aspirations in becoming an actor enough to craft a film and script around him, maybe this will be a turning point in the way disability is portrayed in cinema.
Gottsagen’s performance shows that a disabled actor can still have the range that an able-bodied actor can have and still have the presence to drive a film all by themselves. Hopefully other film makers will take notice and follow suit.
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