I Am Sam
Mikaela McMorine October 21st, 2012 Analyzing an Interview Movie: I Am Sam (directed by Jessie Nelson) The individuals involved in the interview are a man diagnosed with Autism (subject S) and a female lawyer (subject R). They are connected through a professional-helping relationship. The incidents leading up to the interview are with regards to a custody battle concerning subject S and his seven year old daughter.
His doctors have declared that the intellectual capacity of subject S does not exceed the age of seven.
The issue arises when Child Protective Services deem subject S unfit and incapable of raising his daughter due to the fact that he is unable to hold down a steady job and that his daughter will eventually surpass his brain capacity in age. Subject S makes the conscious decision of hiring a lawyer to plead his case. The lawyer in question, or subject R, chooses to provide services to subject S free of charge. During the custody battle, subject S is granted the opportunity to have short, supervised visits with his daughter.
Shortly before the occurring of the interview, subject S and his daughter meet, followed by his daughter proposing to go to the park. She lies and tells him that the social worker gave her permission to go with him due to the fact that she did not spend enough time with him and she was crying. Once on their way, she explains to her father that the only possible way for them to be together was to run away. Subject S, makes the concrete decision to find his way to the police station and return his daughter to the social worker.
This scene is followed by a court hearing where they call upon subject S’s neighbor as a witness. Earlier on at the start of the movie we see that this neighbor aids subject S in taking proper care of his daughter. Subject S has been promoted in his job from cleaning the restaurant to making the drinks. On the first day of his new position, the restaurant is very busy and subject S begins working too fast, causing him to make a mess and send away some customers. He then attends his court hearing, covered in coffee and still dressed in his work clothes, where he is asked multiple uestions about his ability to care for his daughter. Nearing the end of the hearing, subject S is faced with questions that result in him crying and agreeing with the fact that he is unable to take care of his daughter. After this hearing, he gets to see his daughter for a matter of seconds before she is literally ripped from his very arms. Later, subject S is seen observing his daughter outside of her foster home from a distance with flowers and a card in hand. Then, the foster mom joins the daughter where she explains that her father is supposed to come visit for her birthday that day.
Upon seeing the arrival of the foster mom, subject S decides to leave without getting a chance to see his daughter. The young girl waits for her father and hugs her teddy bear with tears in her eyes when he does not show up. After this, subject S is seen in his room banging his head on a miniature piano with the blinds closed. Subsequently, the subject begins making origami figures which he then stacks up to create a wall. Subject R comes to his house and begins to yell at him through the locked door. She explains that she left work early to meet him at his first evaluation only to find out that he did not show.
After shouting for a few minutes, she threatens to leave but turns around and kicks down the door. This is the exact moment leading up to the interview. After discussing about the incident the occurred at subject S’s job, he states that he believes his daughter no longer needs him because she has a new family now. Subject R expresses that she disagrees with this notion and that he should never give up trying. The goal of the interview that follows is for subject R to encourage subject S to keep fighting for the custody of his daughter.
Sam is the main character in the movie. He is approximately 30 years old and has a developmental disability. He has the mental capacity of a seven year old, the same age as his daughter. This has posed a great problem for Sam, as he must now fight for custody of his daughter, with the help of his lawyer, Rita. The problem for Sam is that in a year, his daughter will have developed more intellectually than he ever will, making him unsuitable to raise a child, let alone a young adult in the eyes of the defence. Sam’s self-concept is quite complex.
There is no doubt in his mind that he is capable of raising his daughter, and providing her with the tender, love and care that she needs. To him, no one understands Lucy as well as he does, nor do they know how to adequately take care of her. As shown in the interview scene, Sam seems to think no one truly understands what it’s like to have a mental disability. As he says in the interview, “You don’t know what it’s like when you try and you try and you try and you don’t ever get there because, because you were born perfect and I was born like this. ” He also states that, “People like you (Rita) don’t know what it’s like to get hurted… eople like you don’t feel anything. ” These things were said in a moment of anger and distraught, and it told us a lot about how Sam feels deep down about his disability. Sam’s self-concept is not distorted and he strongly believes that he is a stable adult, capable of raising his daughter. Constantly needing to defend his rights throughout the movie, Sam’s self-concept becomes evident, and is clearly accurate. According to Sam, being a good parent is about “constancy and patience and listening and pretending to listen when you can’t listen anymore.
It’s all about love. ” Stemming from this, Sam has come to the conclusion that he is an adequate parent, and that Lucy has everything she needs when living with him, and being under his care. Sam knows he is far from being the perfect parent, and he is realistic about it. Being a competent father is a huge part of Sam’s self-concept, and he is, which proves that it is accurate. In Sam’s case, it is particularly hard to decipher his non-verbal communication from a bodily movement he can’t control due to his disability.
The first non-verbal cue I noticed was the sucking of his bottom lip, indicating that he felt uneasy and did not know how to react to Rita’s tears. Secondly, when Rita raises her voice, we see that Sam instinctively pulled back, with a look of shock written across his face. Thirdly, as Rita starts to regain her calm but is still very sad, we see Sam’s eyebrows raise and his mouth start to pout, making him look very sad and empathetic. Fourthly, as he approaches Rita to console her as she begins to cry, Sam uses his fingers to gently pat Rita, as if to say “I’m here for you, you’re not alone. Lastly, Sam gives Rita a hug, which is a clear indicator that Sam sees and reacts to strong feelings, and knows how to act appropriately and comfort someone. Many verbal messages were exchanged during the interview. “Lucy doesn’t need me anymore” is the first thing Sam says that seems to have triggered the exchange between him and Rita.
Sam is conveying the fact that he believes Lucy doesn’t need him anymore simply because she has a “new” family, he says this with a great amount of vulnerability in his voice, showing us the thought truly bothers him. The second verbal message that Sam conveys was said with a lot more anger and emotion. … and you’re perfect. People like you don’t know, people like you don’t know what it’s like to get hurted, because you don’t have feelings. People like you don’t feel anything. ” In that very moment, Sam is indicating to Rita that he is at his wit’s end, and that he feels misunderstood and helpless. Lastly, when Sam says to Rita, “You’re enough. You’re much more than enough” we are seeing a completely different side of Sam, one that is tender, and empathetic and that feels the same pain that Rita was feeling in that moment. His verbal communication is telling us that he knows how to comfort someone.
Yes, Sam’s non-verbal cues are congruent with his verbal messages. During the interview, Rita was clearly upset, and Sam’s nonverbal cues indicated his empathy and uneasiness (i. e: sucking his bottom lip and pouting his mouth) which were congruent with his words aimed at consoling Rita, and making her feel better (i. e: “You’re enough, you’re more than enough. ”). Sam’s consistent use of verbal and non-verbal communication messages reveal a lot about Sam’s character, self-concept and abilities. For example, Sam revealed to us that he feels terribly misunderstood by his peers and by Rita.
He feels un-capable of getting his point across, resulting in Sam’s voice raising and him getting angry. Another instance where we gained insight about Sam was when Rita broke down and started crying, his first reaction was to approach her, and gently caress her, showing us that he is very empathetic, understands emotions and knows how to react to them appropriately, which is an important ability. I believe that no emotional barriers were interfering with Sam’s ability to communicate his feelings. His disability allows him to be extremely sensitive, empathetic and emotional.
He “feels” more than the average person, and many things in his life affect him immensely. He is passionate, which gained him the ability to fight for his daughter as hard as he did. Actually, Sam believes people do not “feel” as much as he does, because they don’t know how it feels to truly be hurt, like he has. That is why i believe emotional barriers are the least of Sam’s problems. Referring to the communication process diagram, I believe there is nothing hindering the communication process. Messages are both being sent and received, and interpreted well and fully. Sam and Rita both share a good communication rocess. Rita walks into Sam’s apartment after breaking down the door unprofessionally. She comes up to Sam to talk about his evaluation that day with Child Protective Services. Sam breaks down in tears and begins to tell her that she doesn’t understand and that she will never know what he is going through. This is when Rita tells Sam that she isn’t perfect and that she does understand how he is feeling; the hurt, the pain and the incapability to fulfil their ambitions. Rita admits to Sam that she is not perfect, that she has a son that hates her and a husband that is cheating on her.
At this moment, she is not establishing a professional relationship because she discloses her feelings and emotions to her client. Many factors demonstrate that the interviewer is unable to check her perception at this point in the movie. Due to the fact that she is breaking down in tears and mentally, she cannot take the time to sit down and analyze the situation rationally. At this point in the film she is consumed by the problems that she is having in her home-life and is incapable of putting forth techniques to check her perception of the client’s situation.
Rita is very verbally expressive; she does not hide what she is feeling either mentally nor physically. She has built up so many walls lined with hurt, frustration and anger that she had finally hit her breaking point. She expressed everything she was feeling and how mad she has been for so long. At this point she says that realizes that she needs to change her life because she too has made mistakes in the past. Sam tells Rita that people like her have no feelings because people like her are born perfect when Sam was born as he was.
This causes her to tear down Sam’s origami wall and get close to him and say, “You think you have it pegged on human suffering? Let me tell you something about people like me. People like me feel lost, little, ugly, and dispensable, people like me have husbands cheating on them with people far more perfect then me. People like me have sons that hate them. ” By saying this Rita is making Sam realize that he is not the only one with problems and that she is going through things that are equivalently terrible as losing his daughter.
She is testing his ability to have an understanding and empathy for what is going on in her life. At this point in the film Sam’s perception of Rita has dramatically changed. This is caused by the abrupt moment when Rita begins countering her problems with Sam’s (ex: her husband cheating on her and her son hating her, then comparing it to Sam’s problem of losing Lucy). She is testing him to see if he will admit that she is, in fact, un-perfect like Sam himself and everyone else in the world. Rita uses assertiveness when she is communicating with Sam.
Her language is direct and honest when explains to Sam that she is not perfect and that people like her feel, lost, little, ugly and dispensable. She uses a firm tone of voice to get her message across and try to make it clear to Sam that no human being is perfect, including herself. Rita uses emotive language when she talks to Sam. She expresses her feelings in a disruptive or controlling way. She isn’t simply telling Sam that she is having a bad day and that she needs to talk, but instead is expresses her anger in a disorderly way.
For example, when she storms over to Sam and tears down his origami wall, because what he said had triggered something in her. Rita when communicating also uses a lot of “I” and “but” statements. It is obvious that the situation is revolving around her at this point and not the client. She explains to Sam that she knows the way she treats her son is not right, yet she feels she has no choice but to be this way, “He looks at me with such anger and I hate him then, I know I failed you, I know I’m disappointing you, I know you deserve better. But get in the F***king car”.
Rita uses kinesics in an intentional fashion to show Sam that she was irritated and frustrated. She chooses to walk over to the origami wall, knocking it out of her way and intruding Sam’s space to make him feel intimidated and uncomfortable. You can clearly see that she is tense and offended at what Sam has said to her. Rita demonstrates individual factors that reveal how she is feeling; the tone of her voice gets really low when she is being serious and reaches a topic that is sensitive to her. Throughout the scene her tone of her voice changes.
When she is explaining to Sam that she is far less than perfect, she raises her tone of voice to put emphasis on what she is saying. Rita uses the external factors to her advantage. She intrudes Sam’s personal space to make herself heard. This also exhibits territorialism because by tearing down the origami wall that Sam had made she is clearly stating that she is in control at this moment. Rita also uses Chronemics frequently to regulate her communication. To allow the information to sink in she uses small pauses between statements such as, “You think you got the market cornered?… on human suffering?…
Let me tell you something about people like me…” Rita’s verbal and non-verbal communication is very congruent. A perfect example would be when Sam says you don’t know Rita turns around and throws her hands in the air saying, “I don’t know what? ” this proves that she is feeling frustrated (her hands thrown up as a sign of giving up due to frustration). Another example is after she knocks down the origami wall she points at Sam and says “You think you got the market cornered…” this shows that she is directly stating her comment towards him and the pointed finger provides that extra shove towards Sam.
When Sam tells Rita that she doesn’t understand him because she was born perfect, her head is seen pulled back slightly. Sam begins saying things to her such as, “People like you don’t know” which results in Rita replying with, “People like me? ” This demonstrates that Rita is effectively listening to what Sam has to say. She uses techniques such as prompting to demonstrate that she has understood what Sam has said. The way that Rita acts throughout the interview is very unprofessional.
Examples of this are the way she stormed over to Sam and tore down his origami wall and the way that she speaks to him. She has forgotten that Sam has the mental capacity of a 7 year old and treats their relationship on a much more personal level. She does not keep a professional distance from her client because she opens her heart to him as though the two were friends. She shares with him information about her son and husband, when the focus is supposed to be on Sam and his battle for custody of his daughter.