Stumbling upon one another in the North Carolina Outer Banks, Tyler (Shia LeBeouf) and Zak (Zack Gottsagen) form a tentative friendship as they head south.
Tyler soon discovers that both men are on the run, one from a tragedy, one from his life. As their journey unfolds, these broken men will find solace in friendship and love.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is a charming, heartwarming film about life’s simplicity and our need for love.
Tyler has been running from his guilt, punishing himself with petty crime. Zak, a 20-year-old Down Syndrome man, is confined to a cheap retirement community by the state, after his abandonment.
Using the open beauty of the Outer Banks as backdrop, writer/directors Tyler Nilson and Mark Schwartz perfectly capture a “coming-of-life” story – Zak’s search for his purpose and place in this world.
The strength of this wonderful narrative is in the characters, acting and dialogue. Tyler is a no-nonsense guy who isn’t living, just not dying. Zak struggles to understand why he is bound to a retirement home at 20 years old.
LeBeouf is perfect for this role. He is Tyler, a man lost in loss who is transformed by his healing friendship with Zak. Gottsagan gives an amazing performance, offering an honest, gentle man with the same needs we all have, that of friendship, belonging and love.
The dialogue is perfect. Every line fuels an important element of the story, whether to define a character, push the theme, or draw forth an emotion.
The narrative keeps its own pace, slowing us down to a gentle stroll as these two men try to find a destination for their journey. As the climax arrives, it does so with a perfect surprise and resolution.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is the feel good movie of the summer. When life gave Zak lemons he made The Peanut Butter Falcon, showing that Down Syndrome people can achieve, succeed . . . and be “the good guy.”
A boy without a family finds one on an epic journey, along with a young man struggling with a personal tragedy and a young widow who find their way through an innocent who loves them.
Of course, it sounds familiar. Of course, it resorts on clichés. Of course, it relies on the romance of the open road and inevitable lessons learned along the way.
The difference is that there is something natural and sincere about “The Peanut Butter Falcon” that draws you in – a sweet tone and many small engaging moments in a gentle, amiable but ambling movie.
With their hearts on their sleeves, first-time feature directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz take us on a long and winding road. They snagged an interesting assortment of actors to give the movie serious credibility, and their familiarity with the terrain has given us a rustic off-the-beaten-path backdrop. A blind man either baptizing or shooting intruders near his shack?
The film works primarily because of the charming chemistry LaBoeuf and Gottsagen share, and the affection the lead trio have towards each other. Gottsagen is a natural, and giving his hopes, desires and dreams dignity is heartwarming.
Shia LaBoeuf, whose checkered career often overshadows his work, excels as a country-smart loner who has angered some bad dudes with his actions. Dakota Johnson, who is a bland actress, obviously cares about Gottsagen and the story.
They are joined by some of the best character actors around – Bruce Dern as Zach’s crusty roommate, Thomas Haden Church as the grizzled has-been wrestler, Jon Bernthal in flashback as Tyler’s brother, and former pro wrestlers Mick Foley and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. John Hawkes is not given much to do as the villain seeking vengeance, partnered with rapper Yelawolf.
There may be one too many subplots, and at times, the movie is bogged down in its earnestness, but there is no denying that they have created memorable characters in a crowd-pleaser with heart.