I am Sam Review

“Did God mean for you to be like this or was it an accident?”

When seven year old Lucy in the film I am Sam asks this question to her father, he is bewildered. Not knowing how to answer, he says, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Lucy then responds, “It’s OK, Daddy. I’m lucky. No one else’s Daddy ever comes to the park.” I am Sam is an adorable film that tells the story of a beautiful Father and Daughter relationship and a Father's fight for what he loves most, his daughter. Even though he has to battle with the world's perception of his capabilities, Sam Dawson has such a positive outlook on life. Throughout the course of the film, he captivates everyone around him, and he will captivate your heart. Fair warning, this review may contain some spoilers.


//I am Sam// is a touching film about a father’s fight for his daughter. I am Sam premiered in 2001 and starred Sean Penn as Sam Dawson, Michelle Pfieffer as Sam’s lawyer and Dakota Fanning as Lucy Diamond Dawson and is rated PG-13 for language. Sam Dawson, who has a intellectual disability, having the mental capabilities of a seven year old, has a child with a homeless woman. When the mother leaves Sam, he is left to raise little Lucy with the help of his neighbor, Annie, a stay at home pianist and an agoraphobe. As Lucy grows up, they form a special father-daughter relationship. When Lucy turns seven and through a serious of unfortunate events, the department of child protective services crashes Lucy's surprise birthday party and takes her into private custody. The rest of the movie follows Sam’s determination to fight for his daughter. He hires Rita Harrison, a lawyer whose cold demeanor and horrible temper is transformed through her interactions with Sam. During the trial, when Sam was asked to testify, he breaks down and is convinced that he could not take care of Lucy. He looses the case and Lucy is placed into a foster home, where we meet Randy Carpenter, Lucy's foster mother. When Sam moves into a larger apartment that is closer to Lucy's foster home, Lucy continually runs away from the foster home. In the end, Randy gives Sam back custody of Lucy, but Sam confides in her that he does need help to raise Lucy and asks Randy to be a mother-figure to Lucy. The movie leaves the ending up to individual interpretation, however many agree that Randy and Sam have joint custody over Lucy.

"I wouldn't want any other daddy but you." ~Lucy Dawson

Sam Dawson, Lucy’s father, only wants to be with his daughter. When Lucy was born, Sam was left to be a single parent. He tries his best to raise Lucy, and gets help from his neighbor, Annie, whenever he needs it. Throughout the film, Sam’s intellectual disability is evident in certain situations. When he first brought Lucy home, he did not know when and how often he should feed Lucy. His neighbor, Annie, had to help him by telling him to feed Lucy during specific TV shows (since Sam has difficulty with time). One time, Lucy asks Sam if they can go to a new restaurant. When this restaurant does not have Sam’s favorite menu item, he becomes very frustrated, yelling at the waitress. However, there are many moments in the film where Sam says and does things that shows how he is like any other father. He takes Lucy to the park and takes her shoe shopping. During a visitation after Sam looses custody of Lucy, Lucy says that all of this was her fault. Sam quickly replies, “Don’t say that. It wasn’t your fault so don’t say that.” When Lucy would continually run away from her foster parent’s home to be with Sam, Sam would walk her back every time. This movie’s portrayal of Sam is very respectful, showing how although people with disabilities have their weaknesses, they also have their strengths. People like Sam have a place in our society and they can do anything if given the chance and proper support when needed, even raising a little girl.
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This little girl, Lucy Dawson, sees her father, Sam, as her Daddy, not as someone with special needs. As Annie said on trial, “She [Lucy] displays empathy for people, all kinds of people.” The love Lucy has for her father is so evident whenever they are near each other. One night, Lucy’s brought home a book that her teacher wanted her to read. When Lucy and Sam were reading it, Sam was having difficulties reading the book. Lucy, because of her love for her dad, lied and said she was tired and wanted him to read Green Eggs and Ham, the book Sam reads to Lucy every night. A couple nights later, Lucy tries to re-read it, and struggles with a word. She tries to tell Sam that she is tired, but he tells her to read the word. Lucy then replies, “I don’t want to read it if you can’t.” Lucy also does what few other people in this movie do, treat Sam just like anybody else. When Sam had not visited Lucy and finally came to visit, Lucy ran out there and yelled at Sam, “You forgot about me! How could you forget me?” Lucy did not treat Sam any differently because of his disability. She was angry and was going to tell her father why she was. She never treated him differently because he had a disability. This film, although not suitable for young children, is a perfect film to show parents the importance of introducing their children to all kinds of people. This film shows that if children are shown that people with intellectual disabilities are just like anyone else and that they are not scary people, then children will grow up to be very accepting.

"All You Need is Love"

Some critics of the film complain that the concept for the film is unrealistic, stating that in real life, a man with the mental capabilities of a 7 year old could never raise a little girl. Although realistically this may be true, that does not take away from the beauty of this film. This movie shows how beautiful Lucy and Sam’s relationship is. Sean Penn does a fantastic job portraying Sam; his portrayal is respectful and very accurate. Dakota Fanning was six years old at the time of filming this movie, and she acted better than most of the other characters on screen. Some of her scenes will bring a tear to your eye. Michelle Pfieffer, although her character sometimes annoyed me, did a fantastic job portraying a cold-hearted lawyer who is transformed by Sam. Above all else, this film shows how important it is to teach the younger generation about people with intellectual disabilities. If we do not teach our children about others with disabilities, they will grow up not understanding, therefore fearing them. Because Lucy grew up around Sam, she saw how Sam was like everyone else, a man with his own strengths and weaknesses. When testifying in court, Mr. Turner asks Lucy if she knew that she really needs more than her father can give her, Lucy’s response is “all you need is love.” Love and Acceptance of others that are different than you is an important lesson to learn, and I am Sam is a movie that helps to show this.