An Analysis of the Movie “I am Sam”
The movie "I am Sam" is a 2001 American drama film written and directed by Jessie Nelson, and starring Sean Penn as a man with an intellectual disability who fights for the custody of his daughter (Dakota Fanning). The movie was generally well-received by critics, with particular praise for Penn’s performance.
However, the movie has been criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of people with developmental disabilities and for its use of able-bodied actors to play disabled characters. Nonetheless, the movie does offer a rare chance to see some aspects of developmental disability represented on screen in a clear and nuanced way.
2. Theories of communication
In order to analyze the communication in the movie "I am Sam", we will use the theories of relational dialectics and collaborative communication. Relational dialectics theory posits that all relationships are characterized by tension, which can be creative or destructive (Baxter & Montgomery, 1996). Collaborative communication theory, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of collaboration in all human interactions (Dionaldo & Garnett, 2002).
3. How the movie is organized
The movie is organized around two main plotlines: the custody battle for Sam’s daughter, and Sam’s journey to develop more caregiving skills so that he can be a better father to her. The custody battle plotline is mainly driven by conflicts between Sam and his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, while the caregiving skills plotline is mainly driven by conflicts between Sam and his daughter’s social worker, Annie (Michelle Pfeiffer).
4. Selected scenes from the movie
We have selected two scenes from the movie to analyze in depth. The first scene is from early in the movie, when Sam first meets Annie. The second scene is from later in the movie, when Sam and Annie are working together to develop a care plan for Sam’s daughter.
Scene 1: Sam meets Annie
In this scene, we see some tension between Sam and Annie as they try to figure out what kind of relationship they will have with each other.Sam is trying to be friendly and open with Annie, but Annie is guarded and skeptical of him. This tension is resolved when they reach a mutual understanding that they will work together to help Sam’s daughter. However, before they reach this understanding, there is a lot of miscommunication between them. For example, when Annie asks Sam why he wants to talk to her, he doesn’t understand that she’s asking him what his purpose is in talking to her. Instead, he tells her about his day-to-day life with his daughter. This misunderstanding leads to further tension between them. However, they are eventually able to clear up their misunderstandings and find common ground.
Scene 2: Sam and Annie work together
In this scene, we see Sam and Annie working together relatively harmoniously on a care plan for Sam’s daughter. There is still some tension between them, but it is mostly resolved through discussion and negotiation. For example, when Annie suggests that Sam’s daughter should be placed in foster care, Sam disagrees with her at first but then agrees to consider it after she explains her reasons for thinking it would be best for his daughter. This shows that they are able to collaborate effectively despite their differences.
5. Analysis of the movie
The movie "I am Sam" does a good job of depicting some of the challenges faced by people with developmental disabilities. For example, the character of Sam is shown struggling to communicate effectively with other people, both verbal and non-verbal. This is a common challenge for people with developmental disabilities, as they may have difficulty understanding or using communication cues such as body language, eye contact, and tone of voice. Additionally, the character of Sam is shown to be very reliant on routines and rituals. This too is a common challenge for people with developmental disabilities, as changes in routine can be very stressful for them.
However, the movie also has some major flaws. One of the biggest problems is that it relies heavily on able-bodied actors to play disabled characters. This is not only inaccurate and offensive, but it also suggests that people with developmental disabilities are not capable of playing disabled characters themselves. Additionally, the movie portrays people with developmental disabilities in a very one-dimensional way. For example, all of the disabled characters in the movie are shown to be childlike and innocent, which is not representative of the reality of most people with developmental disabilities.
Overall, "I am Sam" is a movie with both good and bad elements when it comes to its portrayal of developmental disability. It is important to remember that this is just one movie and that there are many other ways to learn about developmental disability. However, the movie can be a helpful starting point for discussions about how we communicate with people who have developmental disabilities.