Monday, November 29, 2010

Of Sean, Sam And Petom's Soul

Sean Penn made me watching Sam Dawson in him, when I jolly well knew that myself is not any movie fan.
But few nights ago, over HBO, I saw Sam in Sean and I saw Petom in Sam.

'I Am Sam' is, to me, a good but narrative and insipid Hollywood movie that touches a mental condition that most people would usually not giving a second thought to it.
'I Am Sam' is about Sam Dawson whose normal daughter, Lucy Diamond (Dakota Fanning) is taken away by the court.
Sam, a mentally retarded man with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old, fights for custody of his 7 year old daughter, Lucy Diamond, named after one of the Beatles song, as he is obsessed with the group.

Lucy's mother is a homeless woman whom Sam had a fling with, who abandons him and their daughter as they leave the hospital.


Sam works at a Starbucks but as Lucy coming to the age of seven, she intentionally hold back to avoid looking smarter than her father as Sam's limitations start to become a problem at her school.

The court intervened as it do not advocate severely developmentally challenged folks becoming parents, as the situation can lead to child's unbecoming future.
The authorities take Lucy away.

They had Lucy's best interests in mind, without realising they are doing a despicable act on Sam.
Lucy, while being observed, said to Sam, "I want no other daddy but you."

Then, she turns to the glass and shouts, "Did you hear that? I said I didn't want any other daddy but him. Why don't you write that down?"

When the court asks her, she said, "All you need is love."

Along the custody process, Sam shames his selfish high-priced lawyer Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer), into taking his case pro bono.
Along the custody process too, Sam teaches cold-hearted lawyer Rita, about family value.
Lucy, amidst her father's disability, is a happy child but Rita, with all her success and wealth, brings up a miserable, lonely son.
Rita and her husband had both fail as a parent.

In the process, Rita learns a great deal about family love, and with the help of Rita, Sam finally gets Lucy back with an arrangement that Lucy's foster mother, Randy Carpenter (Laura Dern), who Lucy lived with, during the trial period, help to raise her.


'I Am Sam', a 2001 American drama film, written and directed by Jessie Nelson and Kristine Johnson, and Petom, stuck in her real-life drama, way back before 2001 and way back before I even knew her - her not reel-drama being written and directed by the society at large.

Sam, a man with a developmental disability, lived in Los Angeles, worked at Starbucks, and the sole guardian of his six-year-old intelligent daughter Lucy, after her mother abandoned them.
Cruel as it was, while in preparation for a custody case, Lucy was taken away from Sam by a social worker who turned up at her seventh birthday party, allowing Sam two supervised visits per week.

Petom, with the same mental of Sam, was at home all her life, had never work, so she can be easily lured and worked on by men, old men, very old men, who were always on the pretext of leaving early for the morning prayers.

Whenever Petom was seen holding or bringing back her favourite breakfast, a packet of 50sen nasi lemak in mid-morning, almost all the villagers will knew that very soon, the village midwife will be kept busy, will often visiting her house as Petom will be indoor at all time.

During these time, all the men, old men, very old men, as if by co-incidence, did not easily lure her with the 50sen breakfast, until she delivered one of their many children.

Petom delivered these men's children to the world, without ever holding and nurturing them.

Yes, Petom is the mother of many (?)  children.
These babies would soon be 'given away' by those who assumed she was always in oblivion state when in fact, she knew and could relate happily to me well, how it was having babies kicking inside her and what was it like when in labour.

While Petom had been a mother many (?) times over, her mental dysfunction robbed her of even a whirl parenthood.
As she said, she understood herself well, but even normal people, like her parents, do not bring up normal children.
Some normal parents just happen to have children, just like her.
She claimed, normal people can be bad parents too.

As she said, should there be parenting courses for people like her, she would be more than willing to attend classes, so as to be able to shower her eternal motherly love to her many (?) children.


I see her well reasoning in wanting, if possible, to raise her own kids, is not a passe statement.
It will be voiced again and again, by people like her, with some form of mental disability.
Her yearning heart was not voiced then, to her surroundings.
Even when she did, those people who assumed are having the best mind among the best, 'fit to think', will think, and will take action, on her behalf.

I had acquainted Petom from a distance, always through a third party, who will think, will judge, and took action, on her behalf.
Myself then, had always wanted to be part of the 'sane society', too.


When Sam's high-powered lawyer Rita fought for his right, Petom had her right violated, with no understanding and motherly support from other mothers.

Unlike Lucy's mother who chose to abandon her and her father, Petom had never choose to abandon her children and her men, but all her heartless evil men were all not ashamed of the absent responsibilities they all share, towards her, her children, and their children.
It was the society that chose to determine Petom's children's welfare and future.

Petom, like Sam, with all their limitations, were well-adjusted, at times.
So, she knew by face and by name, who the men were with him, and their houses, and their families.
Who had her the most, and who were with her, the least.


Sam was blessed with his supportive group of friends with the same mental disabilities.
He was able to provide a conducive environment in caring for Lucy, who soon surpasses his mental ability, with the help of his kind neighbour too.

Petom had kind neighbours too, who often saw, amidst the early morning darkness, who the men, old men, very old men were, who often mentioned the 50sen nasi lemak near her room - but they chose to blame Petom solely for all the babies that she bore and gave birth to.
'Her kind neighbours' chose not to blame the men, old men, very old men out of not wanting to cause rift of neighbourly relationships.
Petom's parents were at their wits end for having bias neighbours.


For having bestowed with maternal instinct, come Mondays, Petom would stationed herself at the nearby government polyclinic as she knew come Mondays, mothers would bring their babies and toddlers for checkups and appointments.
She would stand by at the gate, befriending unsuspecting mothers with babies, and would eagerly volunteered to carry them into the clinic, just for the sake of getting close to 'her own babies which she never get the chance to even hold them'.

She was always already at the clinic whenever I had my appointments, all ready, preparing to hold babies, anybody's babies, for that matter, and I was once one of the unsuspecting mothers too.
Although reluctant, I gave in to her, as she gazed with pleading eyes.
At once, her maternal love radiates a warm glow that was never before seen and felt.

But it was short lived, as a nurse grabbed my baby from her as she was happily relating her experience of having babies.
The nurse scolded and shooed her away, warning her of never to come in close contact with babies again, fearing of her kidnapping them.

Petom left the clinic crying her heart out, just like Sam, whom at the trial, broke down after opposing counsel convinced him that he is not capable of being a father.


Lucy had her friends teasing her for having a 'retard' as a father, and she becomes too embarrassed to accept that she is more intellectually advanced than her father, Sam.
And Petom's parents were too embarrassed with the society, especially the villagers, even as how wrong the villagers might be.

Never in the parents' wildest dream that they have had a daughter like Petom, or a son like Seman, whom some of the men, old men, very old men, who befriended Seman's sister, taught and passed their 'skills' to Seman.

So, Seman could be found coming out from the house wearing baju kurung, very early before dawn, on the pretext of leaving early for morning prayers, but hid himself among bushes, 'exposing' himself to unsuspecting passers-by.

Petom and Seman's parents, did have a 'normal' married daughter, whom after their marriage, as it was known, the husband, and not the wife, who took the daily planning pills.


Unlike helping Sam's parental rights, had helped lawyer Rita herself, with her family problems and repairing her relationship with her son, but Petom's life revolved around the village, the villagers and the society, who, altogether, had prejudge her with their undisputed judgment - she is, until today, a village menace who needs no sympathy, and her presence is best ignored, by those neighbours who had used her,
by families of neighbours who had abused her,
and by neighbours who knew of neighbours who had exploited her mental develpoment disability.

Through 'I Am Sam', I am able to have a better understanding of Petom - she knew what she had wanted all along: Seeing her children.
But what she needed: Holding them, was not even met.

Such a wisdom taken by the 'sane society',
the wisdom that is still existing until today.  

'I Am Sam' offered me a unique twists of reel-life 'sane society' versus all the real-life mental disabilities saga.

Should I be able to turn back the clock...
If I could, I surely would be trying.

But I had just recently found out,
Petom had just recently passed away. 


5 comments: said...

macam menarik je cerita ni ...

Ummie said...

Petom was never in my mind, not even when I knew of her recent death.
But while watching I Am Sam, every little thing of Petom that I knew, flooded my eyes.

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Ummie, that looks like a good movie. I have lost touch with what movies showing....and believe it or not only learn about them from postings like yours.

I sometimes do watch old ones on TV, but not gone to a cinema long time.
And I like Sean Penn....
Love your eloquence, Ummie.....
Have a nice day, Lee.

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