The Themes of Love and Disability in the Movie "I Am Sam"
In the movie I Am Sam, there are 3 main characters and many supporting characters. Sam Dawson, who is played by Sean Penn, is a single father with an intellectual disability raising Lucy, played by Dakota Fanning. After Lucy’s mother abandoned them, Sam had to figure out how to raise a newborn baby all on his own. He did have some help though. He had a very supportive group of friends that also had disabilities of their own and a helpful neighbor, who at first didn’t want to but helped take care of Lucy when Sam wasn't available to due to things such as work. Sam is portrayed to not have a mental capacity over the age of seven, the same age as his daughter. Lucy began to get bullied due to her intellectually disabled father and she being more advanced than him. She then began to withhold herself from learning which the teachers and staff of the school caught on to. That raised the concern of Sam being able to further take care of his daughter and they threatened to take her away. During her seventh birthday party, a social worker came to talk to Sam about the separation of him and Lucy but was interrupted. A school friend of Lucy's told how Lucy felt about her father which made Lucy run away.
Sam has to get a lawyer to fight the case so he can be with his daughter. Rita Harrison, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, reluctantly became Sam's lawyer pro bono to prove something to her coworkers. As they worked together, Sam also provided help to Rita. He helped her see her life differently. The trial ended with Lucy being in the care of foster parents and Sam having supervised visitations. Lucy continuously ran out in the middle of the night to go see her father but he always returned her safely to not harm any of his chances of her being taken away from him forever. Although her foster parents wanted to adopt Lucy, they had a change of heart and felt that Sam was a better parent for her. Sam asks if the foster parents would still be in Lucy's life and help him raise her.
In the movie, I Am Sam, the main character, Sam Dawson, is shown to be intellectually disabled and have autism spectrum disorder. Intellectual disability is a disability that has serious limits on adaptive behavior and mental functioning. Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological and developmental ailment that starts when a person is young and last their whole life. The way the person interacts with others and how they learn is affected.
The movie portrays the disability very well. Yes, Sam struggles with things someone with a higher IQ may not but the movie shows a better light of people with disabilities. Sam is showed as a dedicated member of society. A loving and caring father. But it also shows the hardship that someone with disabilities can go through. He had the IQ of a seven-year-old. It holds him back from being able to get a promotion at his job because he didn’t believe that Sam could handle it. He was arrested due to the fact that he didn’t realize he was talking to someone that was soliciting herself. Risking losing his daughter because his mentality doesn’t seem fit. The movie shows the struggle of having a disability while also touching the viewer's hearts.
The empathy given from the viewers is what raises the issue. The movie gives a lot of quotes and subliminal messages from The Beatles. The movie makes you think “all you need is love”. That was the main argument for Sam in court. His layer; Rita, his friends, and any acquaintances of Sam’s all talked about how he was a loving and caring father. However, no one mentioned if he was capable of raising Lucy as she grew up. Yes, he is a great father but there was always the question of what was going to happen when Lucy got older. There are tutors and other resources but already at a young age, Lucy felt some embarrassment because of her father's disability. There's no telling how'd she feels when she got older. The ridicule she'd get or how she'd adjust to not being able to go to him for help. The movie shows how a family can go through when someone has a disability. It's hard and takes some adjusting but it's manageable. I learned a lot about love from this movie. No matter what people said, Sam didn't let that stop him from seeing Lucy and knowing his rights to be with his daughter. The movie I Am Sam shows that love is unconditional and doesn't give up.
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