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I Am Sam (2001)

PG-13 | | Drama | 25 January 2002 (USA)
2:23 | Trailer

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A mentally handicapped man fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter, and in the process teaches his cold hearted lawyer the value of love and family.


2,163 ( 42)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Brad Silverman ...
Brad (as Brad Allan Silverman)
Joseph Rosenberg ...
Judge Philip McNeily
Miss Wright
Mason Lucero ...
Conner Rhodes


Sam Dawson has the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. He works at a Starbucks and is obsessed with the Beatles. He has a daughter with a homeless woman; she abandons them as soon as they leave the hospital. He names his daughter Lucy Diamond (after the Beatles song), and raises her. But as she reaches age 7 herself, Sam's limitations start to become a problem at school; she's intentionally holding back to avoid looking smarter than him. The authorities take her away, and Sam shames high-priced lawyer Rita Harrison into taking his case pro bono. In the process, he teaches her a great deal about love, and whether it's really all you need. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


love is all you need



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 January 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Yo soy Sam  »

Box Office


$22,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$25,993 (USA) (4 January 2002)


$40,270,895 (USA) (12 April 2002)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Michelle Pfeiffer later admitted in interviews that making this film helped her get over a previous apprehension and fear she never knew she had toward mentally challenged individuals. See more »


In the very beginning shot, when Sam is sorting sugar packets in the holders, he puts the brown "raw sugar" packets in front. When he is shown setting the holders on the tables, the brown packets are in the middle. See more »


[Sam buys a "preowned" answering machine]
Ifty: Yeah. It's an outgoing message so I think you need to sound a little more outgoing.
See more »


References Gone with the Wind (1939) See more »


In a Swingin' Mood
Written by Curt Sobel and Gary Schreiner
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Could have been challenging and interesting but is patronisingly simplistic, sentimental and tiresome
11 December 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Having taken in a homeless woman and sleeping with her, mentally-retarded Sam finds himself a father to a baby girl. He continues his menial job at Starbucks and, with the help of neighbour Annie manages to raise an intelligent little girl in Lucy. However leading up to her seventh birthday Sam gets in trouble with the police over a simple mistake and his situation is brought to the attention of the authorities who remove Lucy from his care. Sam manages to get pro-bono support from the efficient and rushed Rita Harrison and starts a challenging process to try and get Lucy back.

It is good that Hollywood is able to put issues and ideas up on the screen like this but it is the way that it delivers these things that generally kills them. In this case it starts badly with us looking at Sam working away in a coffee shop and then coping with his new baby – it doesn't really look into this very much but just asks us to accept everything at face value. Then it gets to the court case and the unlikely twists that see Sam taken on by Rita and then sweetly stuttering and stumbling through the emotional turmoil as he tries to just reconnect to the thing he loves. It could have been an interesting look at the situation but instead it is too sickly simplistic and doesn't get to the heart of the characters – instead keeping things very superficial and slick. This is seen in everything from the writing right down to the choice of music (which is annoyingly sentimental itself). It works on this level though but it is disappointing to see such a high profile film seemingly aim for the quality of a daytime TV movie (which is where this will gradually move now that it has had its peak slot premiere).

The cast are OK but the material isn't there for them. Penn deserves credit for taking it on and doing it so convincingly and he does it well but it is hard to get past the fact that he is "doing" mentally retarded rather than playing a character. In other films you would see his role as the simplistic one but here that is left to Pfeiffer to deliver and she fluffs it terribly. Her character is awful and there is little she can do with it other than be flustered, be emotional or be professional – whatever the scene requires. Fanning is as good as ever; a bit precocious of course but generally more able than many cute kids. Wiest has little to do, while Dern has a thankless task as the stupid plot device required to produce the ending. Support from Schiff is good (aside from the film giving his character very little sympathy) and there are a few other familiar faces in there too.

Overall though this is nothing more than a starry daytime TV movie. The debate that it could've sparked never comes out and instead it is simplistic, sentimental and unconvincing. For some this level of "ahh" might suffice but it ignores the complexity of the situation and the fact that it is not as simple as the story here suggests is just rather patronising.

16 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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