There’s a magical blend of real life and fiction in this soul-stirring US indie, as Zack Gottsagen, who has Down’s syndrome and has always wanted to be an actor, plays Zak, who has Down’s syndrome and has always wanted to be a wrestler. The writer-directors – Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz – met him years ago, and when Nilson lamented the lack of mainstream acting gigs for people with Down’s, Gottsagen asked them to write one for him themselves. And here we are, with this injection of pure joy.
Frustrated by the restrictions of the nursing home he’s been stuck in, Zak, hell-bent on going to Florida to meet his wrestling hero, the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), does a runner. He bumps into a fisherman fugitive Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), demands to tag along and, with his carer Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) hot on their heels, Mark Twain-inspired riverboat shenanigans ensue.
LaBeouf, as ever, sells it all like his life depends on it, while Johnson brings a wonderful lightness and Thomas Haden Church’s washed-up wrestler is a hoot. But, no doubt about it, this is Gottsagen’s film – he showcases real subversion, with attitude to spare. The story is a pretty standard mismatched buddy road trip, and there’s not much unpredictability, but there doesn’t need to be – it’s charming as hell, and very funny. It’s a film about love, made with love, and you can feel it emanating from all involved. What a pick-me-up.