“I can’t be a hero because I am a Down’s syndrome.”
This delightful adventure-on-the-run is a modern spin on classic American fiction like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, notable for starring an actor with Down’s syndrome rather than resorting to caricature. Zack Gottsagen’s performance feels natural, the actor being both self-effacing and determined in his portrayal of a sheltered youth desperate to experience the world for himself. The striking geography of North Carolina’s coastal plain provides a grand backdrop to this journey of self-discovery. Shia LaBeouf is the ideal wilderness companion, rough and yet innately sensitive to the fact that Zak requires freedom from his constrained existence in order to develop and flourish. Sweet without being saccharine, The Peanut Butter Falcon walks the perfect line for a feelgood movie, undermined only by its abrupt ending.
“Avoid trauma reminders? My whole work requires and is motivated by trauma reminders.”
The autobiographical nature of Honey Boy is evident even if one didn’t know Shia LaBeouf wrote the script. Noah Jupe is suitably captivating as a twelve-year-old actor in the questionable care of his recovering alcoholic father, a failed entertainer. The highlight, however, is LaBeouf on excellent form effectively playing his own father consumed by seething resentment at everyone. The film suggests an intention to forgive his father’s flaws but the portrayal is uncompromising and honest, aided by the lo-fi presentation of this independently funded film. However, intercutting the story with an older Otis in court-mandated alcohol rehab, resisting therapists’ attempts to explore his childhood, does not work. LaBeouf seems to be justifying his own erratic behaviour but — without introspection by the older Otis (or indeed LaBeouf’s script) — there is nothing for the audience to learn from his experience. As the credits roll there is less a sense of catharsis than narcissism.