Before 2020’s horrors were unleashed, my dad had heard about this movie from some friends, and was intrigued by the storyline, so for the next movie night, he brought home the Peanut Butter Falcon. My family and I just re-watched this film, and it is so impactful, sweet and heartwarming that I just had to write a post about it.
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, and Zack Gottsagen, the Peanut Butter Falcon is a heartwarming story about how the lives of a protective caretaker and a suffering outlaw change through the unconscious influence of one man.
It is a redemptive, timeless story with beautiful scenery, remarkable acting, and a plot that leaves a warm feeling and an inspiration to be better.
The film follows the story of Zak, a young man with Down Syndrome who defies the limits put upon him by society, escapes his government-mandated nursing home and runs off to follow his dreams of attending “The Saltwater Redneck” wrestling school. On the way, he accidentally meets Tyler, a hardened and hurting man who is on the lam, fleeing to Florida. The two of them continue on together, bonding over being fellow fugitives, watermelon, shooting lessons, and near-death experiences.
Tyler’s crime, however, refuses to remain in the past, and hunts him down–as does Eleanor, Zak’s nursing home attendant. Her initial mission is to bring her charge back home, where he will be safe, and she firmly believes she is the only one who truly cares about his well being. But as the movie progresses, she is shaken awake by Tyler’s relationship with Zak at how there’s a difference of seeing Zak as a loving but mentally impaired patient, and seeing him as a independent human being, with dreams and a future.
Today, the world views people with disabilities with disdain or disgust, as if their weaker mental state and challenges defines who they are. Throughout the film, you see people show their true colors by how they treat Zak, whether they mean well or (more often) not. The ugly spirit of bigotry is shown multiple times, as kids and even a grown man pick on Zak. Because of the fact he has Down Syndrome, he is a “retard,” and unworthy of being treated like the human being he is.
Zak appears to believe that notion himself. In one scene, when Tyler tells him that he is a hero, Zak replies that he can’t be a hero, because he has Down Syndrome. Tyler is silent for a moment before he asks:
“What’s that got to do with your heart?”
The scene goes on to reveal how Zak had been told by all the authority figures in his life how he is retarded, and so will never amount to anything. Hearing that over and over again, Zak evidently believed it. People truly don’t realize how deep their words can sink, how they could shape the perspective of someone until that someone believes he is what he is called (With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered. Prov. 11:19).
There are many people who have Down Syndrome in this world, yet they are no less human than we are. Each of us have dreams and hopes, each of us have our weaknesses. Just because their struggles are different than ours does not mean they should be treated as “freaks” or “retards.” Quite the opposite, it is an opportunity for us to implement the Golden Rule: Do unto others as they would do unto you. If you had a struggle pronouncing words, or had a face that looked different than others, would you want to me made fun of, to be laughed at and scorned?
Zak thrives in the care of the people who treat him as they would want to be treated, who see him for who he is: a man who wants to live life and pursue his dream. In turn, Zak brings out the best in his friends, and proves to them that you don’t require everything the world has to offer to be happy; all you need is the love of a makeshift family, a bit of duct tape, and a super cool wrestling name, like the Peanut Butter Falcon.
Warning: this is a wonderful family movie, there is, however, some swearing in this film.