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Peanut Butter Falcon, The


Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zak Gottsagen, John Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church, Jon Bernthal, Bruce Dern, Deja Dee, Yelawolf

Director: Tyler Nilson, Mike Schwartz

There are echoes of such 'journey' films as The Adventures of Huck Finn in this glowingly shot (by Nigel Bluck), elegiac film in which you can almost smell and feel the warmth of the waters off North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Zak (Gottsagen), a chubby Downs Syndrome teenager without family, is trapped in the confines of a retirement home, from which he has tried to escape twice, to the despair of carer Eleanor (Johnson) and has befriended the old codger (Dern), with whom he has been forced to share a room.

A short distance away on the coast, Tyler (an unrecognisable LeBeouf) is caught illegal crab fishing, loses his position and flees after setting the marina on fire.

With Dern's assistance, the bars outside Zak's window are bent back and, tubby body greased up, the youth squeezes out. Not quite sure why Dern didn't then hand him some clothes, but at any rate, he legs it half-naked across country to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler after his TV idol The Salt Water Redneck (Church).

Naturally, the fates of our two protagonists entwine (Tyler finds he can't leave Zak behind) and they embark on a picaresque series of adventures by road, river, sea and everglade-type canal. pursued all the way by a carpeted Eleanor out to save her job.

It's a pretty retro kind of film, with a colour (process uncredited) scheme reminiscent of the Metrocolor films of the 1970s. Warm-hearted and atmospheric, the film does lose its way a little in the last 10 minutes with a foolish wrestling match - Tyler finds The Salt Water Redneck long retired and a backwoods scruffbag - and a final scene that suggests the writer-directors didn't quite know how to end their film.

But the boy is cute and both Johnson and LeBeouf, each cast against type, are revelations. Some nice homespun philosophy here too. 'Friends,' says Dern, 'are the family you choose'.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Signature. Colour (unspecified).
95 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 14 Oct 2019