A coming-of-age story set in 1965 that follows 12-year-old Andy Nichol (Chase Ellison), a bright student who, like most kids his age, will do anything to avoid conflict for fear of ... See full summary »
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A coming-of-age story set in 1965 that follows 12-year-old Andy Nichol (Chase Ellison), a bright student who, like most kids his age, will do anything to avoid conflict for fear of suffering overwhelming ridicule and punishment from his junior high school peers. Everyone's favorite teacher, Mr. Simon (Ed Harris), pairs Andy with the school's biggest outcast and social pariah, Stanley, aka "Big G" (Alexander Walters), on a critical term project. Sporting thick orange hair, a head too big for his body and ears too big for his head, "Big G" has been the object of ridicule since grade school. Before long, Andy will learn that there was truly a method behind Mr. Simon's madness as to why he teamed these two up. As the story unfolds, Mr. Simon finds himself the target of a malicious rumor after Principal Kelner (Amy Madigan) suspends a school bully for brutally beating up a female classmate whom he thinks has "cooties." When Andy watches "Big G" fearlessly confront the school bully, a ... Written by
Teaching tolerance and loving one's self in a realistic, mature way
Human Dignity + Compassion = PEACE. That's Mr. Simon's (Ed Harris)
award-winning four-word solution to world peace. Unfortunately,
children are cruel, and there isn't even peace in his 1965 junior high
classroom. "That's What I Am" is narrated by an adult Andy Nichol, who,
as an awkward 13 year-old is popular enough that he gets bypassed by
the bullies but he wouldn't want to jeopardize that by socializing with
This is just a coming-of-age story, but it's personal, based on a true
story, and completely realistic that the lessons are meaningful, not
corny. This isn't just about teenagers struggling with the awkward
phases of life, or about playing up bullying for laughs, there are
serious undertones to the maliciousness of kids. And it's all too real.
Mr. Simon is the best teacher in the state of California (and there are
awards to prove it). He does what he can to bring peace to the world.
He pairs up Andy with Big G, the tall, skinny red-head who gets
tormented each day. Big G, however, doesn't let that get to him. That
doesn't deter the bullies, but Big G has an inner strength that allows
him to stay true to himself. Andy is inspired by that. And so am I.
It tries to teach tolerance and being true to one's self, but does so
through a beautifully-told, coming-of-age story that is more adult in
nature than juvenile. The events that occurred were real, and had
serious implications to the well-being of society. It has taken society
a lot longer to be tolerant than we would like; "That's What I Am"
doesn't trivialize it but focuses on the personal, positive resolutions
that the good characters come to. It's real, but we also get to see the
Andys of the world get the girl. I like that kind of world.
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