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  • Writer's pictureMax White

The Peanut Butter Falcon – film review

SE15’s beloved Peckhamplex recently announced it was temporarily closing its doors, and it looks as if Cineworld could be suffering the same fate. Peckhamplex's August reopening was initially promising, thanks largely to Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Tenet. But since then visits have "fallen off dramatically".

I'll be waiting patiently for them to return, but until then, we might all have to make do with our smaller screens at home. With so much to choose from on Netflix, Mubi, BBC iPlayer and so on, that's hardly a lot to ask.

In this post we’ll take a look at a recent favourite of mine: The Peanut Butter Falcon.

What it's about

Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a 22-year old man with down syndrome, lives in a nursing home in Richmond, Virginia. He dreams of becoming a professional wrestler like his favourite fighter, the Salt Water Redneck. Every night Zak rewatches a video tape of his idol in action, hoping that one day he can take part in his hero's wrestling school.

Zak eventually breaks free from the home with the help of his elderly roommate, Carl. It’s then that his path collides with an outlaw crab-catcher called Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). After an altercation with some rival fishermen, Tyler’s forced to flee. But little does he know, Zak’s hiding under a sheet on the getaway boat.

What follows is a paint-by-numbers buddy adventure story, but one that’s the quite possibly the heart-warmer of the year.

What I made of it

Apparently LaBeouf agreed to star in this film before he’d even read the script. It was his co-star Gottsagen that drew him in, and it’s their relationship that’s the crowning glory of this Netflix gem. The pair really hit it off on-set and it’s evident in every scene they share.

LaBeouf’s long turned his back on multiplex productions with eye-watering budgets, instead mostly dedicating himself to arthouse titles like Lars Von Trier’s two-parter Nymphomaniac and 2019’s self-written Honey Boy.

The projects he chooses nowadays are more concerned with purpose than profit. And watching The Peanut Falcon, you get the impression he would have starred in it for free; that the friendship he found in Zack is worth more than any Hollywood paycheque.

Both performances are superb in their own right, but together there's a connection that's as palpable as the swampy North Carolina setting that first-time feature directors Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz evoke so well.

It’s not without its contrivances, but at a time when the world outside feels so bleak, it's a much welcomed dose of dopamine. The last 20 minutes in particular are a little testing, but who cares? Because the rest of it is pure tonic.



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