The Peanut Butter Falcon review: a magical indie movie

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Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen star in a real delight of a film – and here’s our review.

There’s something magical about a folktale – and sometimes in more than one sense. Take The Peanut Butter Falcon, set in a world that’s little different from our own but has something very special in it. In this case, it’s the newly found friendship between Tyler (LaBeouf) and Zak (Gottsagen). They meet in the most surreal of circumstances, where the former is running away from the fisherman’s port he just burned down and the latter has escaped from his care home without anything. Including clothes, for the purposes of slipping away. Out the window. Whilst greased up. Tyler and Zak are both missing something in their lives, namely a family. And, as is the way with folktales, they quickly become a tight unit as they travel the country, making their way to the wrestling camp that Zak has idealised for years courtesy of his VHS collection.

Tyler is grieving the recent death of his beloved older brother and finds himself naturally fitting into the shoes of a brother/father figure to Zak, guiding him through the wilds of rural America. It’s Mark Twain meets John Steinbeck, a timeless tale of two lost young men helping each other find the way. And it’s achingly beautiful to watch. A dreamlike quality prevails throughout, making some of the more impossible feats within the film seem more plausible or believable than you’d expect. Spending days travelling the waters of America on a home-made raft may be reality-defying, but it makes sense in this world.

As does the film’s handling of Zak’s developmental disorder. He’s a person who happens to have Down’s Syndrome – it may be the sole way that people define him, but it’s not the sole way he defines himself. The firm and fast friendship that forms between he and Tyler is authentic and sincere. A line such as ‘friends are the family you chose’ could feel cloying and saccharine elsewhere. Here it’s feelgood, warm and true. This is Gottsagen’s biggest role to date, with a performance so captivating and charming that he proves himself a real one to watch. That’s not forgetting LeBeouf, who is nothing short of commanding here. Worn-down by being served the worst that life has to offer, his portrayal of Tyler is spell-binding. It’s up there with one of his best performances to date.

All within a film that is beautiful, endearing and rather wonderful.

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