I Am Sam – Movie Review Example

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The paper "I Am Sam" is a worthy example of a movie review on visual arts and film studies. I am Sam (2001) is a movie that presents a social discourse and cultural disability disclosure. The movie is based on a mentally challenged father (Sam) who is determined to have custody of his daughter (Lucy). The movie has been recognized for a long time as a suitable representation of mental disabilities in parenthood. Through various cultural models, Sam has been used to represent various views. In this movie, he fits as a disabled person, within social paradigms.

Through the Movie, a cultural model is suitable in the evaluation of traditional acuities of disabilities. Plot Sam is a single father with a developmental disability. His wife abandoned him and his daughter Lucy. This brought about many limitations despite his good adjustment. His good adjustment earned him friends who were able to help him take care of Lucy. Annie is one of such people who helped in caring for Lucy. Despite the care and love that Sam extends to Lucy, she faces challenges of being teased at school for having a father with mental retardation.

She takes home all the embarrassment and never believes that she is more rationally forward-thinking than her father. Sam is eventually separated from Lucy by a social worker who showed up at Lucy’ s birthday. She only allowed Sam to see Lucy two times a week. Sam gets a lawyer, Rita, who decides to help him. In the process, Sam becomes instrumental in solving Rita’ s marital problems and the relationship she had with her son. Sam loses the case because he could not take care of his daughter, according to the judge.

Lucy settles in a foster home where she continually attempts to run away from with no success. Lucy is later returned home to her father and plans are made to have a member of the foster family, Randy, take care of her. Throughout this movie, the plot displays themes of social aversion and glorification deliberately. In the past, the movie has received mixed reactions and critics have failed to take sides. In terms of its thematic exposition, the movie has brought out the themes clearly.

People with disabilities are perceived negatively in society. This is because they are seen to be a bother to society. They are also viewed as heroes who overcome obstacles. Themes and Ideas Disability studies have proposed models that analyze the reactions that society exhibits to disability. Medical and social models can be distinguished from the way they define the disturbance and how society reacts to them. Based on the medical model, disability is perceived from the cause. This means that the physiological cause of the disability makes it become a disease rather than a disorder (Taylor & Francis 2009). With regard to the social model, the glorification of disabled people is a representation of cultural views.

This perspective is actually the traditional understanding of disability. This can be seen when Sam keeps off from society when he is denied custody of his daughter. This can be seen in the part of the movie transcribed below:                       Sam: There is no room here. Because I make things hard on everyone                        Rita: You have to let me in, please. Sam: But Lucy doesn’ t need me anymore… Sam literally calls himself an outcast because he believes he is a trouble maker who brings problems to others in society.

He believes that he adds little value to society. His usefulness could be portrayed if he became Lucy’ s caregiver and father, but this dream is shattered when she is handed over to a foster family. However, Sam bases his character on both negative and positive constructs (Wilson, 2001). I am Sam presents concrete ideologies about disability. The way the society views Sam is actually the way Sam views himself, in some instances.

His esteem reveals that, despite his disability, he can make judgments about what is right and wrong. He has a sound mind and can actually deduce his needs. His decision to see a lawyer to help in fighting custody of his daughter is a clear indication that his rational dimension of thought was straight. The movie, therefore, succeeds in presenting the various ways people with disability reason, and how they perceive themselves. In terms of social perspectives, I am Sam does not present a solid impression of how people with disabilities should be treated in society.

Being disabled, according to   Taylor & Francis (2009), calls for social support and motivation. Sam’ s daughter was taken away from him because of the thought that he could not take care of her. However, the reverse happens when he finally wins custody and his daughter gives back to him. Conclusion Issues in this movie have been brought out through the two models mentioned earlier. These include the social model and the medical model (Riley, 2005). The social model overcomes the medical model in this movie.

Rita wins the case in the end and ensures Sam has his daughter in his custody. Symbolism has been used in the movie to show how events unfold but the main theme of disability; a social acceptance and conflict resolution are articulated well. Production components of the movie have been used to draw attention to various issues raised by the two models proposed. Sam’ s disability has been transformed into an opportunity for compensation. This then turns out to be a story of transformation from disability to ability.


Nelson, J. (Director). 2001. I am Sam [Motion picture]. United States: New Line Productions, Inc.

Riley, C. 2005. Disability and the Media: Prescriptions for change. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

Wilson, J. and Lewiecki-Wilson, C. (2001). Disability, rhetoric, and the body. In Wilson, J., and Lewiecki-Wilson, C. (Ed.) Embodied rhetorics: Disability in language and culture.

Taylor, & Francis. (2009). Tensions, perspectives, and themes in disability studies. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

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