Mental Retardation and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
In the movie I Am Sam, Sam, the main character and the focus of this writing, is a "mentally challenged- father who enlists the aid of an attorney to help him regain custody of his daughter. Sam and his pro bono' lawyer must demonstrate that his caretaker capacity has not been hindered by his developmental delays. Sam has a circle of friends whom as a result of their developmental delays, are dismissed as character witnesses, but manage to provide Sam with valuable social, psychological, and economic support. .
However, because of her superior intellect, Annie, his female mentor, is selected to act as a character witness in his defense. She also provides him with parental training, emotional support, and life lessons through an analysis of the lives and music of the Beatles. Sam is employed as a helper at Starbucks where he is not promoted to "coffeemaker- until his abilities are challenged in court. To prove that he can earn enough money to pay for a larger apartment, Sam acquires a number of part-time jobs at local fast food stores, establishes his own dog walking business, and is promoted to coffee maker at Starbucks. .
As they defy a rigid court ordered visitation schedule, an indifferent foster parent, and the critical gaze of a tenacious social worker, Sam and Lucy try desperately to maintain contact. Sam rents an apartment down the street from Lucy's foster home and Lucy takes advantage of every opportunity to sneak over to her father' apartment. As the movie progresses and Lucy develops into a healthy eight year-old, it becomes apparent that she has surpassed her father's intellectual and social ability. .
In their struggle to create a defense for Sam's potential parenting abilities, Sam develops a close relationship with his neurotic lawyer. He indirectly pays for her legal assistance by befriending, validating, and helping her sort through her own family conflicts.