I Am Sam
Nice doggies. Sam discusses Lucy's situation with her foster mom (Fanning, Dern, Penn)
dir Jessie Nelson; scr Kristine Johnson, Jessie Nelson
with Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dakota Fanning, Dianne Wiest, Loretta Devine, Laura Dern, Richard Schiff, Brad Allan Silverman, Joseph Rosenberg, Stanley Sedantis, Doug Hutchinson, Rosalind Chao
release US 28.Dec.01; UK 10.May.02
01/US 2h12

2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
love is all you need This occasionally astute and overwhelmingly sentimental drama comes, unsurprisingly, from the cowriter of Stepmom and The Story of Us. Sam Dawson (Penn) is a mentally disabled single parent with a very precocious daughter (Fanning) he has raised on his own ... with a bit of help from a quirky neighbour (Weist). Through a string of events, his parenting skills are challenged by social services, so he hires a lawyer (Pfeiffer) who's a hard-as-nails go-getter cornered into taking on his case pro bono. Valuable Life Lessons ensue.

There's a good story here, and just enough edginess to make the film watchable in between the manipulation and/or syrup. Somehow, making Sam disabled seems like a cinematic cheat, because we are of course never allowed to question him in any way--he's the adorable, loving dad, so how could all these nasty people even think of taking his daughter from him! Especially since he's retarded ... oops, mentally challenged! There is plenty to make the film worth seeing, especially Penn's thoughtful, startlingly consistent, Oscar nominated performance. Pfeiffer is very good when she's the heartless attorney ... then goes all mushy on us later, like the rest of the film. And Fanning is one of those astonishing child actors who takes you aback with her sheer energy and spark. Like Anna Paquin in The Piano, she's the scene-stealer every time, and definitely one to watch. Overall, although it's not a bad film its deeply manipulative formula will put off serious filmgoers. All others should take a box of tissues along.
themes, language cert 12 8.Mar.02

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
love is all you need send your review to Shadows... "If I were allowed to vote in the Oscars, I would vote for Sean Penn. I overheard the people behind us saying that she had gone cuz a friend had told her it was funny - she said she wished she had brought Kleenex, because she spent so much time crying - in between the funny spots. Dakota Fanning is such a doll, and a scene stealer. She is such a doll, and so perfect - I was amazed at how well she did her lines and made you feel them. But I also gotta say that Sean holds his own - I think it must be difficult to act the part he was cast in - but I also think he did it superbly. I also need to mention Michele Pfeiffer - another beautiful scene stealer - she plays the over-achiever lawyer, who ends up doing a pro bono case, mostly to spite her co-workers, and ends up really respecting Sean's character, and his odd friends. She also ends up doing some retrospection on the relationship with her own son, and does she really spend enough time with him - does he know how much she loves him? Another favorite actress, Dianne Wiest, plays Sean's neighbor who finally ventures out of her apartment after 25 years. A superb movie, with excellent jobs done by all involved - go see it please." --Laurie T, Minneapolis 24.Feb.02
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall