Rita: "I just don't know what to call you: retarded, mentally retarded, mentally handicapped, mentally disabled, intellectually handicapped, intellectually disabled, developmentally disabled..."
Sam: "You can call me Sam."I Am Sam
(stylized i am sam
) is a 2001 American drama film written and directed by Jessie Nelson, and starring Sean Penn
as a father with a developmental disability, Dakota Fanning
as his inquisitive seven-year-old daughter and Michelle Pfeiffer
as his lawyer.
Sam, a mentally handicapped man, meets a woman who takes advantage of him sexually. Nine months later, she drops a baby girl off and vanishes into the night. Though he's not able to understand all the implications of this, Sam does his best to raise the girl, whom he names Lucy, with the help of some friends.
Lucy turns out to be very bright, but after a while she realizes the gulf between her own intelligence and her father's, and she even starts to act dumb
- pretending that she can't read, and so on. When he calls her on this, she confesses that she never wants to be smarter than he is. She's six years old at the time.
Shortly thereafter, the school realizes that Lucy is being raised by a mentally handicapped person, and they report it. Lucy gets taken into foster care pending a court trial to figure out if Sam is capable of raising her. Sam seeks out a pro-bono lawyer, who is initially resistive to the idea of representing him, but eventually gets up to bat with everything she has.
Sam ends up moving in just down the street from the foster home. He's not aware that this is a bad thing. Lucy runs away to Sam's house repeatedly, and he keeps bringing her back to the foster home, because he knows she has to obey the law. Eventually even the foster mother comes around, realizing how much Lucy loves her father, and one night she even brings her over to Sam's house.
The court case goes through, and eventually the verdict is: Sam can raise Lucy, assuming he gets help from the various resources he's proven he's capable of seeking out, to ensure that his daughter is not without proper education.
This film provides examples of: