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Review by Michele E. Hawkins.
Zak (played by Zack Gottsagen) is a young man who dreams of becoming a champion wrestler like his idol Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). A few things stand in Zak’s way, the biggest being that to follow his dreams he must first escape from the care home where he lives because his family does not want to care for a person with Down syndrome. Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), Zak’s goodhearted and caring caseworker, regrets that Zak is living with much older people who are there to see out their days, but there don’t appear to be any other options. Zak, determined to exercise his right to live the life he wishes to, makes his escape and crosses paths with Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who has a close relationship with trouble. The unlikely duo, whom Eleanor eventually tracks down, finds itself on a journey through the backwaters of a forgotten America.
Zack Gottsagen as the indomitable Zak shows the viewer how a person’s inner world can overcome all in his or her outer world, and how acceptance and kindness can help a fellow traveller to walk a more hopeful path. Shia LaBeouf’s Tyler is tough and unsympathetic, as wounded by the world as Zak is, and not especially likeable; but perhaps not beyond hope. Dakota Johnson’s Eleanor is warm, generous, and kind in the face of her own difficulties, past and present.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is a remarkable film in several ways. Quietly and sometimes whimsically, it shows what harm and limitations we can impose on others by never seeing past assumptions, and what each of us can achieve with the courage and determination to make our own destinies.