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I Am Sam (2001)



Average Rating: 4.6/10
Reviews Counted: 143
Fresh: 49 | Rotten: 94

Not only does the manipulative I Am Sam oversimplify a complex issue, it drowns it in treacle.


Average Rating: 4.5/10
Critic Reviews: 39
Fresh: 13 | Rotten: 26

Not only does the manipulative I Am Sam oversimplify a complex issue, it drowns it in treacle.



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Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 299,873

My Rating

Movie Info

Sean Penn stars in this drama as Sam Dawson, a developmentally disabled adult who has been working at a coffee shop and raising his daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning) for seven years. Sam receives help in his parenting duties from a circle of trusted confidantes, including his ADD-afflicted best friend Ifty (Doug Hutchison), the paranoid Robert (Stanley DeSantis), an agoraphobic neighbor (Dianne Wiest), and his other disabled pals, Brad and Joe (played by real-life developmentally challenged actors



Kristine Johnson, Jessie Nelson

Jun 18, 2002


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All Critics (156) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (94) | DVD (25)

Penn repeatedly hits the ball out of the park, but the rest of the team never gets past first base.

November 6, 2002 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune | Comments (2)
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a sensational performance, and [Penn] illumines a movie that sometimes seems in danger of descending into modish Hollywood political correctness.

July 20, 2002 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
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On one level, I Am Sam is a crock, but on another, more vital one, it's very, very sweet.

March 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Slate
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Plays out in such a conventional manner that it feels like a TV movie of the week from the '70s.

March 4, 2002
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For a movie that probes the sensitive issue of living with reduced mental capacity, are the creators of Bambi the obvious choice?

January 25, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A well-intentioned but ludicrous tale.

January 25, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Moving film with great acting seems too contrived.

December 24, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Sean Penn gives the most professionally shameful, cruelly wrongheaded performance ever nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, while Jessie Nelson Kristine Johnson's script lives down to Penn's ugly ineptitude with idiotic catchphrases and product placement.

September 25, 2010 Full Review Source:

And I think I am sick.

September 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

Just watching Penn and Fanning worth wading through the occasionally ankle-deep syrup.

February 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Quips Online
Film Quips Online

This movie plays like an after-school special or a public service announcement.

January 23, 2003 Full Review Source:

This movie is every bit as painful as it sounds.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A fairly formulaic (and terribly overlong) tearjerker.

December 2, 2002 Full Review Source: Movieline

The script lacks focus and consistency of approach, and the whole becomes a mixture of emotional manipulation and laughable caricature.

October 21, 2002 Full Review Source: San Diego Metropolitan
San Diego Metropolitan

The movie asks for a leap of faith that it can't make itself.

October 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Enquirer

A supremely well-acted TV movie. But, like a lot of microwaveable insta-films, it has a capacity to taste shamefully better than it looks.

August 29, 2002 Full Review

Contradictory stew of anger, pain and crass commercialism.

August 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

...a manipulative tear-jerker, a divine wallow worthy of that master of the "women's picture," Douglas Sirk ...

July 29, 2002 Full Review
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

I Am Sam is engaging as it stands, but it takes a side that the audience doesn't necessarily agree with.

July 22, 2002

Unspeakably dim-witted.

June 21, 2002 Full Review Source: Matinee Magazine
Matinee Magazine

Liberal propoganda crap.

June 17, 2002 Full Review Source:

I Am Sam is a very special film. It is one of those extraordinarily moving films that not only sweeps you away emotionally, but somehow leave you feeling as though you are a better person.

June 17, 2002 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Although 'Sam' doesn't always work ... when it connects, it does so with surprising force. A word to the wise: Do not leave your tissues at home.

June 9, 2002 Full Review Source: Kalamazoo Gazette
Kalamazoo Gazette

A seu favor, Uma Lição de Amor tem apenas um fator: a atuação de Sean Penn.

May 30, 2002 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

Audience Reviews for I Am Sam

This film, upon its release reeked of Oscar bait. Ten years later, that smell still lingers. I mean, how could it not? It's about a well meaning developmentally disabled man struggling to reclaim custody of his daughter, and prove that he is capable of raising her, even though she is smarter than him.

Here's the thing: I'm not an ogre, and I do have a soul. I recognize that this film is sweet, well meaning, and very charming. It has nothing but good intentions. However, this film tries a bit too hard, and is too reliant on cliches and formula. The references to Kramer Vs. Kramer were a nice litle touch, though.

Yeah, this film is heartwarming, and inspiring, but it's overbearing, and it is a feel-good movie to the extent that none of it is really earned. I feel like the film went to a route that was expected and that it did so just because the filmmakers felt levity over reality would be better. Sometimes I'm okay with that, but in this case, I just couldn't get onboard.

I do like the performances though. The cast is likeable, and they all put a lot of effort into things, but, like the film overall, they try to hard, hence why Sean Penn got a nomination, but went home empty-handed. He took it too far. His performance isn't offensive, and it is sensitive, but he could have made an effort to dial it down because a little goes a long way.

I'm ripping on this movie, but I don't totally hate it. I liked the soundtrack, and the idea to use nothing but Beatles songs was very inspired. Using the originals would have been better, but these are some good covers, so it's okay.

You can go out and see this if you want, but don't expect it to be a completely satisfying experience, even though there are some good moments to be found.
June 27, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. He was a god damn war hero, do you know any retarded war hero's?
April 11, 2012
Joe McCall

Super Reviewer

I Am Sam presents great actings of the cast and bring a cute, confused and nice story. But the strong sentimentalism, don't save the film. Rotten.
January 28, 2012
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

I Am Sam is a wonderful drama film. Director Jessie Nelson directs this story about a mentally disabled adult named Sam. Sam has the mental capacity of a child and he has a daughter named Lucy. Unfortunately, Lucy is growing in intellectual capacity, and it's raising important questions. Sam Dawson is brilliantly played by Sean Penn and there is a great cast starring opposite him. The film is sad and is a very good film with a great story. The acting is brilliant, and this is a memorable drama film. Sean Penn is great here, and he has good on-screen chemistry with actress Dakota Fanning. The film at times is uneven, but that doesn't make I Am San any less enjoyable. The film has heart, and like I said the stand out aspect of the film is Sean Penn's performance. This is a well made film, and director Jessie Nelson has made a great film and is entertaining from start to finish. Penn makes this film work very well, and he delivers one of his best performances. I Am Sam is an enjoyable film that touching, sad, funny and heartwarming. As far as drama films are concerned, I Am Sam is great little film that is impossible not to like. The cast make this film better, and they really elevate the story and film a bit more. Despite its flaws, I Am Sam is worth watching and once you do, you're sure to enjoy it. A very good film from start to finish, and with a cast like this, it is a winner.
December 11, 2011
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

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They aren't even in high school yet, but the Fanning sisters are already grizzled Hollywood veterans...

Foreign Titles

  • Ich bin Sam (DE)
  • Sam je suis sam (FR)
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