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"In the film, Sam responds out of that pure love, from his 'I am' presence."


Raymond Teague is the author of Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower
, from Unity House. 

He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.

  Raymond Teague, 
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews

I Am Sam
(2002, 133 minutes, PG-13)

Dr. Seuss had a wonderful way with words, and many parents, children, and grown-up children will recognize the cadence of the words "I am Sam, Sam I am" from his ever-popular book Green Eggs and Ham. In the film I Am Sam, the mentally challenged Sam Dawson (Sean Penn), who has a 7-year-old's IQ, likes to read the book to his young daughter, Lucy (Dakota Fanning).

The book's story, cadence and alliteration no doubt appeal to Sam, although Lucy is ready to move to more involved reading. Therein lie the central plot questions of the movie: Is Sam really competent enough to raise Lucy? What does it take to raise a child?

The Sam of the movie may also be connecting with the words "I am Sam, Sam I am" at a deeper level. The "I am" structure may be resonating with Sam's soul, with that spark of God within himself that some spiritual paths refer to as the "I am" presence.

What is the nature of God, of the "I am" presence? It is, according to many enlightened traditions, love. "God is love," the Bible clearly states. Therefore, when we are connected to our true Self, to our spiritual nature, we are love and we respond out of pure love. In other words, when the self (the human personality, the "Sam") is responding from the Self (the spiritual component, the "I am") we are fully engaged in being expressions of love in the world.

In the film, Sam responds out of that pure love, from his "I am" presence. To him, love is the main thing needed to properly raise Lucy, and that love can overcome any limitations, difficulties, or dangers that might be encountered because of his own mental challenges.

There are those in the legal profession and the Department of Children and Family Services who question such an assumption, and Sam finds a pro bono attorney, Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer), to argue his reliance on love. Lucy agrees with her father. When asked if it isn't true that she needs more than Sam can give her, Lucy replies, "All I need is love." There is never any doubt that Sam loves Lucy.

Rita argues in court: "One's intellectual capacity has no bearing on their ability to love." She successfully makes the points that even intelligent, educated, professional parents can at times make big mistakes in their child-rearing decisions and sometimes may forsake patience and compassion in dealing with their children.

From a practical standpoint, objections can be made, and are in the film, that Lucy certainly does need more than love to ensure her proper development, education, and safety. From emotional, psychological and spiritual standpoints, however, the importance of love is well known and documented. Love draws unto itself what is needed to accomplish its divine objectives, but those objectives don't always make sense to humans, who so often don't see the Big Picture.

Sam has a lot of faith in love and love's abilities to make things right. He tells Lucy, "Always set your dreams high."

Both Sam and Rita show that you can't always judge by appearances as to how in tune with their "I am" presence people are. Sam may not look like the epitome of love, but he is. Rita may look like she is all together, but she isn't. She is full of anxieties, anger, guilt over ill treatment of her son, and frustrations being in a loveless marriage; her "I am" presence is lost in neuroses. Sam can teach her a thing or two about love and living from the "I am."

While I Am Sam does offer some worthwhile Reel Spirit considerations about the importance of love, viewers should know also that it suffers from unrealistic scenarios, predictability, tediousness, and an extremely high amount of blatant product advertising - all of which tried this viewer's "I am" perspective.

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