Zack Gottsagen, a first actor with Down syndrome, plays Zac, a 22-year-old abandoned by his family, now living at a nursing home for the elderly. “The state has to put you somewhere and this happens to be that place,” he’s told.
When he isn’t socializing with volunteer Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) and the older residents, he spends his time watching wrestling old VHS’s of his hero, “The Saltwater Redneck” (Thomas Haden Church) with dreams of attending Saltwater’s Florida wrestling school dancing in his head.
Eventually he makes a break for it, with the help of his roommate, a retired engineer named Carl (Bruce Dern), who sends him on his way in dressed only in his underwear, with no money.
Zak sprints away, rushing toward his dream of becoming a pro-wrestler. Tired and looking for a place to sleep he hides under a tarp on a boat owned by Tyler (LaBeouf), a tidewater fisherman who has fallen on hard times. On the lam from the law and a very angry crab-trapper (John Hawkes), Tyler first tries to rid himself of his stowaway but soon grows fond of him, taking him on an adventure that reunites him with Eleanor and brings him closer to fulfilling his dream.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” (that’s the name of Zac’s wrestling alter-ego) is a gentle film, ripe with human connection. LeBeouf’s Taylor takes a minute to warm to Zac but turns into an older brother character whose empathy is rivalled only by Johnson’s Eleanor. The three leads become a family, equals in life, never condescending to Zac or allowing his disability to be an issue. He’s simply a guy with a dream and the courage to follow it. It’s an uplifting movie without a bit of cynicism that (as the title might suggest) isn’t afraid to be sweetly silly by times.