Zack Gottsagen is an exceptional young man who happens to have Down Syndrome. At a camp for both disabled and non-disabled people, his exuberant energy was attention grabbing. He told people he intended to be a movie star. Two other campers, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, decided to write him a starring vehicle for their new friend, so they did. Directed it too. Called it The Peanut Butter Falcon.
In it, Zack plays a guy named Zak. Zak has no family, so he lives in a nursing home where he is well cared for but surrounded by old folks, as you can imagine. He runs away not because he’s unhappy or mistreated, but because he dreams of being a wrestler, and meeting his idol, Salt Water Redneck. Zak’s not helpless but there’s a reason he lives in a care home, and without a carer, things go badly for him. Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a social worker from the home who’s quite close to Zak, sets out to find him. But first, Zak finds Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a pretty wayward guy used to being alone and rootless in the world, not exactly the prime suspect for becoming a vagabond caregiver, yet here we are.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is often described as a modern day Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – I suppose the raft alone makes this comparison inevitable. This, however, is a different animal. Sweet and heart-warming, it reminds us that we all need goals and human connection to thrive. We need to matter. Wrestling may be the destination, but friendship is the journey.