Reel Caregiving: Glimpses Of Caregiving – The Peanut Butter Falcon

Movie Review Courtesy: Jyotsna Gupta

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a comedy-drama film about Zac, a young man with Down syndrome, and his friends. It is one of those rare movies that went against the norm, accurately representing the differently-abled community by hiring an actor with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) instead of having an able-bodied actor play the role.

Zac, abandoned by his family, is a reluctant resident of an old-age home. In the first few minutes of the movie, Zac’s attempt to escape is foiled; he is flagged a flight risk and his windows are barred. One night, Zac strips down to his underwear, lathers himself in soap, and slips between the bars of his bedroom window. He finally manages to escape the home! Along the way, he crosses paths with Tyler, a fisherman also on the run.

Understanding Eleanor

Eleanor, the volunteer caretaker responsible for Zac, has a soft corner for her differently-abled friend. She is well aware that Zac’s only ambition in life is to become a professional wrestler. Although she understands that Zac is an adventurous guy with a zest for life, albeit, with a case of mild Down syndrome, Eleanor believes that Zac could never survive wrestling school or the real world without (her) help. She feels that his well-being is her responsibility.

Understanding Zac

During their Huckleberry Finn style journey, Zac learns many things from Tyler including how to swim and fire a gun. Tyler begins to train Zac for wrestling school when he realizes that Zac has an uncanny amount of physical strength. The two have some crazy adventures that bind them closer together. Although in some ways Tyler is also a caregiver, he behaves more like a companion and creates memories with Zac.

A difference of Opinion Between Caregivers

As the movie progresses Eleanor catches up with Zac but instead of taking him back joins them on their adventure. Eleanor and Tyler often come to loggerheads over Zac. Both lie on different ends of the spectrum of “care”– on the one hand, Tyler enables Zac’s agency by letting him fall and learn from his mistakes, while on the other, Eleanor is not keen on letting Zac out of her protective and slightly suffocating care. And yet the thread that binds them together is the awareness that Zac has his own destiny and deserves a chance at life like any other human being.

Towards the end of the movie, Eleanor realizes that Zac flourished when he got a chance to follow his dream. She sees how being with Tyler had enabled Zac and boosted his self-confidence; Tyler never treated him “differently” but “equally”. Every caregiver has a different perspective on what they think is the right kind of care. But it is important to ask the loved one how they want to live their life

In our next segment on Reel Caregiving, we will explore caregiving in another movie. Watch this space!

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