Slide 11: I Am Sam (2001)
Sam Dawson, a cliché made real: Playing drunk, mental, handicapped or dying can be a cheat for fine acting. Actors often gravitate to these melodramatic parts, but only a few can pull them off. In I am Sam, Penn plays a developmentally disabled dad at risk of losing his daughter. It's a part that has "get out the hanky" written all over it. But this is the kind of dramatic challenge that brings out Penn's unique talents. In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle wrote, "I Am Sam deserves to be remembered for Sean Penn's remarkable performance as a mentally challenged man. Penn's accuracy, his lack of condescension or sentiment, and his willingness to inhabit his character without any implicit commentary take what might have been the equivalent of an inflated TV movie and elevate it to the level of art."