I am Sam (2001)

Starring: Sean Penn, Dakota Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianne Wiest, Laura Dern, Richard Schiff, Loretta Devine

Directed by: Jessie Nelson

R. 132 mins

A manipulative tear-jerker, I am Sam is only worth a watch to see the beautiful interactions between Penn, Fanning, and Pfeiffer. Sean Penn plays Sam, a developmentally-disabled adult who raises his young daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning) with the help of friends since Lucy’s mother, a prostitute, left her with Sam at birth. They develop an incredible bond but soon Lucy begins to surpass her father in mental accuity and eventually she is placed in foster care. To help regain custody of his child, Sam seeks out the help of overworked lawyer Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer), who only takes him on to prove she does pro-bono work but eventually grows to really care for the misunderstood father who reminds her that she is also struggling in her parenting skills. This film will offend many as it simplifies complex issues and the character of Sam borders on caricature. Nonetheless, there are certain scenes that are nothing less than golden and if you can ignore the relentlessly condescending caricatures you will probably enjoy this film. I believe I am Sam was made with the best of intentions but the script is riddled with catchphrases and ridiculous characters that charm us into thinking this is scenario is at all realistic so as much as I want to like this film, I really can’t condone such shameless pandering at the expense of real people with serious issues. Did I mention you’ll need a tissue? – * * * 1/2

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