So one of my favorite movies of all time is I AM SAM. It features Sean Penn as a severely Autistic man who, in the beginning of the movie, gets a girl pregnant. Sean Penn’s character, Sam, is left to raise the child on his own. Sam is a huge Beatles fan, and named his daughter Lucy Diamond, after the Beatles song LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS. Sam’s friends are also severely impacted and are very encouraging. But Sam, a grown adult, has the mental capacity of a 7 year old child. After Lucy turns 7, the State takes Lucy away, and Sam is understandably upset.
Enter Rita, an attorney who agrees to help Sam for free. Rita, again, being a reference to a Beatles song, LOVELY RITA. Rita, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, is intrigued by Sam and the two strike up a very close friendship. I am not going to give away the end of the movie, but I will say that it is a VERY powerful movie, especially for someone like me.
One scene that sticks out very vividly in my mind is a scene in a courtroom. Rita is defending Sam and arguing why he should be granted custody of Lucy. The lawyers are yelling, and Sam has a breakdown and starts screaming, “STOP! I WANT TO STOP RIGHT NOW! I WANT TO STOP RIGHT NOW!” This scene is very powerful to me because it shows that Sam does not fully comprehend what is going on, but has an idea of what is happening.
Even Lucy, in parts of the movie, is going, “Dad, what’s your problem?/Why are you acting like this?”. She does not fully understand her dad’s diagnosis. All she knows is that’s her dad and he loves her…and that’s all that matters.
I first saw I Am Sam when I was 11 or 12. When I saw it back then, I was not quite as “in-tune” with my Autism diagnosis as I am now. So when I watched it for the first time in years recently, it hit me how powerful this movie is. As a person on the Autism Spectrum, like Sam, I too want a family of my own. If nothing else, to be happy. Sam is on Cloud Nine with Lucy and thinks the world of her. I am also a huge Beatles fan, and it was neat to hear Beatles songs sung by contemporary artists. Examples include Eddie Vedder from PEARL JAM singing You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away; Sheryl Crow singing Mother Nature’s Son, and Rufus Wainwright singing Across the Universe. My favorite song on there is Aimee Mann and Michael Penn singing Two of Us. I think that is such a beautiful song, and Aimee Mann does an amazing job with it.
The tagline for the movie is “LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED”. Of course, this is a direct reference to the Beatles song All You Need is Love. Love conquers all, and it definitely shows in this movie! I know in the past, I have said that I am a little pissed that they don’t hire people on the Spectrum to portray that (ATYPICAL for example) but Sean Penn did it perfectly!
How did he pull this off? He actually spent time with people who were lower-functioning Autistic and studied them to make sure he got the portrayal right and did not offend anyone. I feel he took this role with great sensitivity, and I appreciate that. I Am Sam is such a good movie, and I would highly recommend it! Per usual, thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you and your thoughts on this movie. Thanks!