F.I.L.M. of the Week (September 17, 2010)

17 09 2010

I don’t know why I have let “I Am Sam” wait in the wings so long for its moment in the sun through the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” column, but it certainly reflects nothing on the quality of the movie.  For those of us who like to feel good, this a movie that will comfort your soul – although it will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride leading up to your eventual soothing.

The title may be taken from the opening sentence of “Green Eggs and Ham,” but “I Am Sam” owes more to The Beatles than it does to Dr. Seuss.  The movie follows Fab Four fanatic and Starbucks employee Sam, played with complete control by the virtuoso Sean Penn, as he fights to maintain custody of his daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning in her breakout role – at the age of 7).  The state has good reason to take her as Sam is mentally challenged; Lucy came into the world because her mother exploited Sam’s lacking logical capacity.

Despite whatever cognitive disabilities he may have, Sam’s ability to love his daughter is uninhibited, and he makes a wholehearted attempt to keep her.  He consults a harried lawyer, Rita Harrison, (Michelle Pfeiffer) for help, who on first glance won’t give his case the time of day.  But for entirely misguided and selfish reasons, she agrees to take Sam on pro bono.  As she gets more involved with the case, Rita winds up being taught how to feel by his undying love for his daughter.

I know it sounds clichéd to say that a movie about the power of love is a really moving thing, but every once in a while, there comes a movie that comes along that can repackage old emotions and make them feel warm and cozy again.  “I Am Sam” tackles a tough ethical question: should a mentally handicapped person be able to have custody of a child that is more intelligent than they are?  No matter what your opinion on the matter is, it’s pretty hard not to be affected in some way by this testament to love that can transcend any boundary.