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All You Need Is Love

i am sam explores the hardest job in the world

At this point in my life, I think if I had kids I would be a total nutjob. In fact, I believe if the majority of my friends were to breed, they too would be under severe duress and would soon succumb to insanity. The point being that: raising kids is the hardest job in the world, next to teaching and brain surgery. The movie i am sam explores how difficult and also how simple raising a child can be. Sam Dawson (Sean Penn who deserves an Oscar Award for his performance here) is a hardworking Starbucks employee (I don't know how much money the coffee empire gave the film studio, but they got a lot of free advertising here) who ends up becoming a single father. He experiences all the normal trials and tribulations of diaper changes and nighttime feedings; however, in this case, he is also a mentally-challenged man with the intellectual capacity of a 7 year-old. But he gets by with help from his loyal pack of friends, including Annie (Dianne Widest), his hermit-like neighbor.

As his daughter Lucy Diamond Dawson (Dakota Fanning who seems to be genetically engineered to be unbelievably cute) enters school, she begins to realize that her daddy "isn't like other daddies". The cruelty of the world shatters her little bubble and she, sadly, begins to become embarrassed by his behavior. One thing leads to another and then the "bad guy", i.e. The Department of Child and Human Services, steps in and uproots them. By shear luck and naivete, Sam enlists the aid of Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer), a cold hotshot lawyer in what seems to be the cattiest law firm in the world. Together they battle for the right to parent Lucy.

Throughout the film, you really see how lost Sam can feel in a world that doesn't easily understand him. To ground himself, Sam turns to music; he relates to reality through the lore and meaning of Beatles songs. He is an avid fan and around every corner of the film, there's a tune from the Fab Four. In fact, the soundtrack in itself is homage to the Beatles, it consists of sixteen covers by a variety of talented musicians like Ben Harper, Aimee Mann/Michael Penn, Rufus Wainwright and Nick Cave.

i am sam gives fresh insight into mental illness. Sam and his friends are portrayed as very normal people with a few major quirks and challenges; they have the same dreams, activities (such as watching videos and doing karaoke) and gripes. They are also hilarious. There are a few scenes that will make you laugh out loud. Such as when Sam and his crew go shopping for school shoes for Lucy; there are a series of quick-edit shots of each buddy showing Sam different types of shoes and the funniest line is when Brad (Brad Allen Silverman) pitches a pair and states excitedly "These shoes light up!".

In addition there are also several poignant scenes that might make you tear-up. One such moment occurs when Lucy is reading a book and purposely forgets words so that her father will be able to understand her. He calls her on this and insists that she go on saying oh-so sweetly, "It makes me happy when you read". But, contrary to how the trailer might angle the film, i am sam is not a traditional tearjerker; you won't need to reach for a tissue every five minutes. It's too endearing and funny for that.

However, there are also a few scenes that seem to have been pasted in from the Twilight Zone; they come out of nowhere and you might find yourself looking around in confusion, wondering if you're the only one who has no idea what's going on. For example, a scene in which Sam and Rita hang out in a diner and swap advice makes absolutely no sense at all and gives you the feeling that the two had slept together. Who knows?? It's just left there hanging.

One of Director Jessie Nelson's (Corrina, Corrina and The Stepmom) goals in making this film was to explore the ways in which different people build and create families. That goal was definitely reached here through a tight, skillfully directed movie that portrayed a very complex relationship in a cute, funny and genuine way.


i am sam
Rated PG-13
2 hours 12 minutes

Sean Penn
Michelle Pfeiffer
Dianne Wiest
Dakota Fanning
Laura Dern