The Peanut Butter Falcon
3rd October 2019 5.15pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
4th October 2019 2.45pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
11th October 2019 4.10pm at BFI Southbank (NFT)
As the last of the summer slips away, The Peanut Butter Falcon breaks through the clouds like a final ray of sunshine, a September heatwave that warms you through and through. Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s feature is a universal tale of friendship and forgiveness, of belief and acceptance; but though the themes and framework are as old as time, this film is fresh-faced and irresistibly funny.
When Zak (Zack Gottsagen) – a wannabe wrestler with Down syndrome – escapes from the community centre and stumbles across outlaw Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), the two form an unlikely alliance, the former seeking sanctuary from his past and the latter looking for a launchpad for his future. But the pair are not only being chased by the stereotypical bad guys (led by a suitably evil John Hawkes): hot on their tail is well-meaning and long-suffering support worker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson).
As the characters collide and three tributaries become one monumental river, the adventure offers a stunningly observed family portrait. Perhaps not a representational portrait – magical realism gives the story a fairytale quality – but a contemporary impression of love in its purest form. The background imagery of the American South is familiar: the film wears its reference to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn on its sleeve. However, the directors justify the name-drop by capturing all of the boyish charm of this iconic work (thankfully minus the controversial dialect and questionable depiction of race). Shots of hand-stitched sails illuminated in the low-lying sun and tribal-style rituals by firelight take us back to the simple, primitive joy of nature.
The real oars of the movie are the gentle portrayals of the lead duo. LaBeouf has never been accused of holding it back in any performance, but here the actor proves he knows how to craft something stunningly soft and tender. Gottsagen also puts in a disarming performance as Zak, sustaining the humour and heart of the movie right up to the final scene. Their palpable chemistry transcends ideas of both masculinity and disability to create a spine-tingling, tear-jerking, heartwarming connection. Johnson’s sensitive portrayal slots perfectly into the picture, the final piece of the puzzle.
If Tyler’s raft was passing, this reviewer would risk the leap from the bank just to be part of his cosy onscreen clan. It’s worth suspending your disbelief to reap the rewards: just leave your scepticism on the shore and let the current carry you away to the beautiful world of The Peanut Butter Falcon.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is released in select cinemas on 18th October 2019.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for The Peanut Butter Falcon here: