With a name like Peanut Butter Falcon one is left wondering what kind of a film this actually could be. I had heard a quiet buzz in the Down syndrome community about an upcoming film where the star was a young man with Down syndrome. This, I want to see. Like most parents to a child with Down syndrome, I want to see a glimpse of the hope that is possible for my child’s future. Not every individual with Down syndrome has the same skillset but acting in a big screen movie, memorizing lines, and giving interviews are all pretty amazing things that offer hope to parents newer on this path. So what does Peanut Butter Falcon mean for Down syndrome?
It means seeing the real capabilities.
It means watching in awe at the humor an actor with Down syndrome has.
It means being excited that producers are interested in portraying the life of someone with Down syndrome.
It means exposing society to individuals with Down syndrome beyond their occasional exposure in public.
It means hope for what may be.
I grabbed some movie tickets and my older children and we headed to check out the film. Let me say first though, I am pretty particular about what I let my children watch and there is a ALOT of foul language in this film. Like ALOT and not from the main character with Down syndrome but from the Hollywood star Shia Lebeouf. That was literally the only negative I have to say about the entire film. The language was meant, I’m sure, to personify the fishing/crabbing lifestyle and fringe of society where Shia’s character originated but at least for me, I could have done without the language.
From the opening of the film I laughed, I cringed, I cheered and I watched intently. I was so pleasantly surprised that the producers and directors added humor without making us laugh AT the main character. There was nothing I found offensive about the portrayal of Zack, the main character with Down Syndrome. I feel that the directors skillfully showed his disability in a way that was accurate. His character seemed very true to life, believable and the struggles portrayed seemed to accurately capture the struggles that are faced by individuals with Down syndrome. His naivete and child-like trust were not overly exploited but rather demonstrated and then protected by the character played by Shia Lebeouf.
The storyline was a simple one, Zack wants to be a pro wrestler and has a dream of making it to a wrestling school far away from where he is staying. The difficulties of someone with developmental disabilities going this trek solo are clear but the humor added in by the unlikely pairing of Zack with a fisherman turned convict on the run is evident. The story adds in some reality smacks with someone calling Zack a “Retard” and Zack recounting times when he was told that he wasn’t able to do anything because of his Down syndrome. There are also two scenes that are cringeworthy when Zack is mistreated but some very important points are brought out as well. And spoiler alert…in the end Zack wins everything and comes out on top.
A movie like Peanut butter Falcon means so very much to the Down syndrome community because it shows that there is an audience for films like this. It shows that casting an actor with Down syndrome is a worthy choice. It shows the world that someone with Down syndrome has disadvantages… but also has the same humanity as everyone else.
It exposes society to a person who is not the “normal” Hollywood actor and we need that. The film is no longer in theaters but can be rented or bought on Amazon, I highly recommend it (just remember my earlier mention of the language in the film)
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The Down syndrome community has come out in force to view and comment overwhelmingly positive on this movie. Shia Lebeouf himself, a well known Hollywood actor, has credited his co-star for saving his life and has shared multiple times about the true friendship that they have developed off-screen. In fact, after watching the film I watched countless interviews with the actors and stood amazed at just how touched the other actors in this Huckleberry Finn type film were by their interactions with the real life “Zack”