Writers / Directors: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz
Dubbed ‘A modern Mark Twain style adventure,’ Peanut Butter Falcon is the story of Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a man with down’s syndrome, who escapes the nursing home he lives in to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler. After escaping, Zak encounters Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a prickly lost soul who is looking to put his past behind him and who becomes an unlikely mentor to Zak. The pair begin their journey together, eluding Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), the kind nursing home employee who continues to look for Zak when everyone else has given up on him.
You can’t help but feel the huge amount of heart that went into the making of the film. The writer / director duo Nilson and Schwartz wrote the screenplay for their friend Zack to help him to achieve his acting dreams. The pair were homeless while they worked on the film; Nilson living in a tent on the beach and Schwartz in his car. After being rejected by agents who refused to even read the script, the pair saw an Instagram post by Josh Brolin who was offering to help people in need for New Years Day. They shot a quick trailer with Zack to send to him, with Brolin answering, ‘This isn’t what I meant…but I’ll help you if I can.’ Emboldened by this semi-optimistic conversation and leverage, the pair started contacting Hollywood again and soon LaBeouf got in touch - he hadn’t even read the script but he’d seen their trailer footage and was certain that he wanted to be part of the process.
‘Shia is an actor's magnet,’ said Nilson at the London Film Festival Gala screening of the film last week at Embankment Cinema. ‘Once he’s involved, others want to come onboard and act with him.’ Indeed, it’s hard not to watch in wonder as LaBeouf navigates the complexity and range of emotion required by this film. Gottsagen is wonderful; the pair seem to have been brought together by fate both in real life as well as in the move. The film is a comedy, mostly brought about by Gottsagen and with lines written for his especially, based on his own humour. This means that the performance we see is natural, hugely likeable - it’s delightful.
The easy-going pace makes me want to just watch the pair together all day, whether they are swimming, fishing or hiking. Like any good road movie, we get to see the walls come down between them and a friendship blossoming before our very eyes and it’s a beautiful one. You can’t help thinking that you’re watching art which is actually reality informing the art.
It’s a must see film, with a huge amount of love. With three standing ovations at London Film Festival, the love had obviously poured out from the screen and over the footlights.