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Communication Elements in the “I Am Sam” Movie Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Dec 30th, 2021

I am Sam” is a touching film based upon a father and daughter relationship in the middle of a court crisis released in the year 2001. The film is directed by renowned script-writer Jessie Nelson and starred Sean Penn in the title role along with Michelle Pfeiffer and Dakota Fanning as the little girl in the middle of the crisis. Mr. Penn was nominated for an Academy award for his portrayal of the portrayal of the mentally retarded man who has to fight a custody battle for his seven year old battle, with the help of a cold hearted profession and on the journey the man shows the prosecutor the real meaning of parental love (Lamb 2009).

In the movie the central character has a disease which is commonly called developmental disability. Let’s take a look at two key communication elements, relational dialectics and collaborating throughout the film I am Sam. From this we can comment on what this teaches us about communication for daily life.

The first communicational element of the film is relational dialectics. Relational dialectics deals with the problems of close interpersonal relationship between two person and here in the case of the movie it is between Sam and his seven year old daughter, Lucy. In human theory the commentators put on five aspects that denote the action of a matured man, and the five are as follows: understanding of the people in new senses, the proper classification of the value system, agreement towards the community and subsequent responsibility to be inducted as a part of the community and in some cases the attempt to reform the society.

In the beginning of the scene, there is a situation where Sam reads Lucy “Green Eggs and Ham” (Zimmer 2008) by Dr. Seuss. In the movie it is evident that this book becomes the routine bed time story for both the father and the daughter. Afterwards Lucy starts to go to school and she also learns to read different books. And Sam also tries to read those books but falter in the longer words, while Lucy helps him to pronounce words like “Silence” and “Different” (Zimmer 2008).

Later Lucy understands the boundaries of her father and makes him read his favorite book. But one day after Sam has been summoned by the authorities of Lucy’s school, he retaliates as Lucy wanted to read “Green Eggs and Ham” (Zimmer 2008). Sam forces her to read her books and creates a scene in the room. Lucy, whose actions are really far more matured than her age, understands what Sam is trying to do obey him.

In another part of the film Lucy wants to go to a restaurant for something special and she also wanted to get out of their regular routine of eating at IHOP on Wednesdays. Here in the new restaurant Lucy orders food of her choice, but Sam could not find his favorite breakfast of “two eggs, sunny side up” along with “French pancakes with fruit toppings” (Zimmer 2008).

This makes Sam go annoyed and he goes on again to create another scene. This here goes on to show that how the difficult for the person is to understand what the situation is and what are the proper ways to behave in the given situation. In the movie, Sam has been taken out of his regular routine, and if he was a proper person he would probably adopt the new changes, But there lies the incapability of the person and he can not really adopt changes, may be to Sam changes are a bit frightening.

The second aspect of the film is about collaborating. Collaboration is some thing that every person has to do in all the steps of his life. In the movie Sam has to collaborate with the lawyer, Rita Harrison Williams, played by Michelle Williams. Rita Williams is a corporate power woman as she appears in the screen and she agrees to fight the case for Sam as “pro bono” (Zimmer 2008) that is for free.

Sam if he was a normal person would understand that Ms. Harrison is doing a great favor as she is doing Sam’s case. Sam on the other hand could not completely collaborate with her as he should due to his incapability. Once we see the two characters goes to a café for food. Here Sam goes to pay for the bill and publicly mentions that Rita is doing his case for free and so he is trying to give Rita a treat. This makes an embarrassing situation for Rita and this can be regarded as a depiction of the lead character’s inability to both understanding the situation and collaborating with others in response to the situation.

Another situation arises in the film in the court room. Sam directly goes to the court room from his workplace where he is just being promoted from a waiter to a coffee maker. He is not even properly dressed for the occasion that he will have to present before a court of law for the custody of his own daughter. Generally, in a court room case, a person has to tell his points with the help of his prosecutor and this is a usual norm (Zimmer 2008).

However, here he does not talk with his prosecutor, but goes on to say the memorable lines uttered by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Kramer v/s Kramer. May be this is a part of Sam where he confuses realism with surrealism but is not Hollywood has provided us with enough tales that show us how to live a decent life, a life where there may be boundaries, but still there is a life and that is a boon.

Communication is a two step process. It starts and ends with a person communicating with the other one effectively. In the movie we see that Sam is quite good while communicating with his friends, who are also a bit retarded, but his problems arise while communicating with general people. But it gives the viewer immense satisfaction that how Lucy communicates with her father, or even his boss and the other employees at the Starbucks talk with him and helps him to face and solve his crisis. The regulars in the coffee shop is seen to be very fond of some, while in some scenes, we see that those who are not regular in the place are often quite dissatisfied with him (Zimmer 2008).

There are two different kinds of sayings about movies. Some say that movies are the direct product of fantasy and it can not be matched with real life. On the other hand many people say that movies are made from real life. But we can say that both these contradictory statements are true and movies contain elements from both real life and imagination. Here in the movie the central character is designed for melodrama, here it shows to regular parents some very important points of parenting. The character also teaches the viewer about compassion, patience and all the characteristics that the Globalization is taking away from us.

The movie it self is like a sugar coated anecdote on a problem that has to be researched thoroughly, but still as a piece of entertainment it succeeds to entertain the viewers. The problems of relational dialectics and collaborating are two of the very important aspects of development disability. Actually the movie silently asks a question, it demands a leap of faith, are the parents brave enough to accompany their wards for their life?

In the final conclusion we can say that many prominent aspects of development disability are shown in the movie in a clear manner, but it still has some very unclear aspects. As a movie it is a good one, but it does not answer clearly what are the basic solutions of the problems faced by the patient. Here it only deals with how the patient deals with the legal problem, but it does not answer how he will deal with himself. There lies the drawback of the movie. However, still we can recommend it for a worthy watch only to generate the belief in parents, that with patience and compassion we can surely help our children to grow up well.


Lamb, C. (2009). Contemporary Hollywood. Auckland: IPCL Press.

Zimmer, D. (2008). Four Complete Screenplays. Wellington: Brooks Press.

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