The Peanut Butter Falcon

Olivia and I went to see The Peanut Butter Falcon after school last Monday. We had not heard much about the film beforehand, but the title and premise were intriguing. We decided to give it a try, rather spontaneously, because the movie theater in Kent has a special deal on Mondays — $5 for a ticket plus a small popcorn. Still, we knew we were going to be late for the start of the movie — so we watched / listened to the trailer on our way to the theater. Fortunately, we didn’t feel too lost, even after missing the first twenty minutes of the film.

It ended up being a powerful cinematic experience — and is perhaps now my favorite film I’ve seen all year.

The story of the film centers around two characters: (1) Zak, a young man with Down’s Syndrome who escapes from a nursing home to enroll in a professional wrestling school he saw advertised on television, and (2) Tyler, a sketchy fisherman on the run from some “Bad Guys” he’s crossed. Through a series of unlikely events, they travel together through the Outer Banks of North Carolina — pursued by the “Bad Guys” and by a woman named Eleanor, from Zak’s nursing home, who’s been tasked with returning Zak to professional care (though she’s initially trying to disrupt their journey, she definitely functions as another one of the “Good Guys”). The quest is interesting, enjoyable, and meaningful to follow. The cinematography and music along the way are beautiful. Zak, Tyler, and Eleanor are all well-developed characters. And the overall plot of the movie is compelling.

It wasn’t a perfect movie, however. There was more foul language than I might have wished for a film that I watched together with my 15-year-old daughter (though, in fairness, the language usage was consistent with the characters’ world; it didn’t feel gratuitous). The characters occasionally made decisions that didn’t seem to be fully backed by plot development, such as Zak’s and Tyler’s initial decision to join forces… Eleanor’s decision to go along with them… the “Bad Guys” decision of how to ultimately settle their accounts with Tyler… etc. Still, I’m glad to forgive the movie its faults because it’s just so artfully-rendered and so sweet.

I loved the way the film handled the romantic tension between Tyler and Eleanor. The Zak and Tyler characters worked together beautifully (great chemistry between the actors). I loved the way things played out for all three of the main characters at the end of the movie.

Above all, I feel like the film had something important to say. It spoke to themes of teamwork, courage, and hope in the fact of weakness, insufficiency, and antagonism from others. Without attempting to do so, The Peanut Butter Falcon seemed to provide a picture of man’s spiritual condition — through Zak’s lostness, naivete, optimism, and ultimate redemption. And even though it points to a solution that’s different from the hope I’ve discovered through faith in Jesus and absorption into a community of faith, Zak’s redemption is similar enough that it resonates deeply.

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