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Soundtrack review: I am Sam (John Powell, 2001)

Composer of the month John Powell month

Soundtrack review: I am Sam (John Powell, 2001)


“I am Sam” is one of the more unique films that John Powell wrote the score for. The movie was the story of the mentally challenged patient who was trying to get custody of his little girl and it stared Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer.

I have never heard John Powell like this. This score was a surprise from start to finish. This is one of John Powell’s experimental score and the experiment works. I admit I was expecting a different kind of score for this movie, one that would tug at my emotional resorts and extort feelings and tears. He could have very well gone down that road but instead he took all the strings he could find (guitars, ukuleles, violins) and made them work together for a much happier composition. There are also a lot of other sounds in this score, like phone dialing sounds in “Rita” or background noises in “Starbucks and hospital”. I felt as if I was listening to Mike Oldfield’s “Amarok” at times.

Sure cues like those two or “Sam visits Lucky” sound as if they are taken from a tropical vacation movie and not an emotional and heartfelt story like “I am Sam” but I guess John Powell wanted us to see Sam as a normal man and make us care for him for other reasons.

But when Powell gets sensitive, you will feel it. This is one side of him I didn’t know but I surely want to explore it further. “Reading together” and “The birthday party” are two amazing cues which will haunt you even after the score is over.

“I am Sam” is a score that made me want to listen to Gustavo Santaolalla once it was done. It has the same sensitivity and simple melodicism and makes for an enjoyable listening experience.

Cue rating: 69 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 4 / 41

Album excellence: 10%


Reading together

The birthday party


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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