It's always with a pinch of salt that I sit down to watch a movie recommended by friends or from social media, as many of these have turned out to be misses rather than hits. But there are these rare gems that have made me fall head over heels in love with them and one such movie I fell for recently is The Peanut Butter Falcon.
The film is about fresh beginnings. Zak, who has Down syndrome, runs away from the state care facility to pursue his dream of joining the wrestling school run by his idol – the Saltwater Redneck. Tyler, recovering from the loss of his brother, looks to sort his life and start afresh someplace else after running into trouble with rival fishermen folk in his town. The journey of this unlikely pair is the film.
The thing about this movie is that it's got a very naïve sense of charm that exudes such warm and breezy feel-good vibes that we are invested in its fantastically written and earnestly performed characters – from protagonists Zak (played wonderfully by debutant Zack Gottsagen) and Tyler (a fantastic Shia LaBeouf), who hit it out of the park with their bromance, to Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) as the mature and restrained caretaker. Even the minor roles, like the elderly roommate who helps Zak to escape, are a delight to watch. And as someone who has interacted with a special needs person, I found Zak's playful antics so relatable that it made me watch them over and over again.
We have these lovely bits of conversations between the two leads, which are so simple and yet so full of heart and meaning and love that if they were to be mouthed by a character in a desi masala flick it would have been either with thumping background scores followed by slow-motion shots or the clichéd soul-stirring symphony music. I especially loved the bit where Zak has to cross a stretch of water and since he doesn't know how to swim, asks Tyler if he's going to die. Tyler's reply borders on the line between philosophy and motivation but its tonality and staging ensures that the scene just makes us feel good.
The same rings true for the entire film in fact – it never gets self-conscious about entering the melodramatic or preachy arena. If Soorarai Pottru was an in-my-face kind of inspiring story of a common man with a big dream overcoming a thousand hurdles (make no mistake, I loved that one too), The Peanut Butter Falcon is the slow, soft-pat-on-the-back kind of story with a sweet, subtle narrative. It did not tell me to follow my heart or think big and bold and keep working hard. Rather, it made me look at myself through the eyes of Zak, making me realise and take inspiration from what I am truly capable of. And by the time the end credits rolled, I felt just a little bit better about myself, knowing that despite all the flaws that I've got I can become a hero – because, as Tyler says, "All you need is a good guy heart, Zak".