Movie Report: Language, Non-verbal Codes, and Cultural Space
I am Sam is a movie about a relationship between a man with mild mental disability and his seven-year-old daughter Lucy. This essay reviews the movie from the point of view of Sam’s communicative practices, mainly his language and non-verbal codes. The essay argues that Sam communicates by using different verbal and non-verbal codes that form his own culture and cultural space.
Sam speaks with enthusiastic phrases and expresses his approval for other people including strangers (“I am Sam”). The say he speaks determines his culture (Jandt, 2010, p. 131). At his workplace at Starbucks café, Sam always comments on the choice of coffee by the customers, saying “that’s a great choice!” (“I am Sam”). Also, Sam has a habit of repeating phrases several times (“I am Sam”), whereas most people repeat phrases only when asked to say something again. Sam’s habit of repetition and his approving comments about his interlocutors are part of his cultural space. As few people make approving comments about other individuals and repeat what they say several times, Sam’s way to communicate is different.
Sam’s non-verbal communication is also different and it reveals aspects of his culture (Jandt, 2010, p. 112). His preferred non-verbal codes are gestures that communicate closeness without words. Sam touches his interlocutors even if he does not know them. This results in misunderstandings. At Lucy’s birthday party, Sam got into trouble when he touched the boy who wanted to spoil the surprise present (“I am Sam”). Sam’s use of non-verbal codes is his own way of communicating that contributes to his cultural space. Most people prefer to maintain a personal space and do not touch strangers, so Sam’s behavior is unique to his culture.
In conclusion, Sam speaks and acts in a distinct way that is determined by his own culture that is different from the mainstream culture. His verbal and non-verbal codes constitute his cultural space, where he openly touches interlocutors, communicates his approval of people, and repeats same phrases.
I am Sam. (2016). [YouTube]. Retrieved from
Jandt, F. E. (2010). An introduction to intercultural communication: Identities in a global community. San Bernardino: …