Mr. Sam follows the titular Sam (Christopher Piccione) whose job at a funeral parlor, and his odd behavior, has earned him the nickname of Deadman Sam amongst the distrustful townsfolk. They view him as a creep to be avoided at all costs. For his part, Sam is kind and courteous to those he does encounter on his few outings. Though, he is at war with himself and sees Dr. Monroe (Natasha Strang) once a week for therapy.
Sam is angry at him for being unable to reveal his true nature to his overbearing mother (Cathy Finlay). See, Sam is gay, but due to sexual abuse from his mother, after his father died, he has a hard time framing any sexual attraction in a positive light. However, while tutoring the young Sandra (Catherine Ashmore Bradley)- as she and her mother Vanessa (Whitney Harris) are some of the only people to be kind to him- the schoolgirl discovers his secret. However, Sam also ascertains one of hers, and it shakes him to his core. Can Sam overcome his inner demons to help out an innocent soul?
“Can Sam overcome his inner demons to help out an innocent soul?”
Mr. Sam deals with very emotional and sensitive issues such as rape, incest, repress, mental health, spousal abuse, and pedophilia. If dealt with incorrectly, the 30-minute movie would come across tactless and unkind. However, under the vigilant eye of writer and director John Zeus Kontoyannis, the film is nothing less than a masterpiece.
The film does an excellent job of ensuring the audience empathizes with Sam. This way, once he is called to action, in a big grand way near the end, there is a wave of triumph that fills the viewer. Of course, all the emotional cues, heavy though some ring with honesty and sincerity. Sam’s abusive mother is not just there to create a tragic backstory for the man but is the lynchpin to his arc throughout the film.
“Sam’s abusive mother is not just there to create a tragic backstory for the man but is the lynchpin to his arc…”
The same goes for Sandra’s relationship with her mom, dad, and Mr. Sam. Of course, that is also thanks in no small part to the brilliant cast. Piccione plays Sam with the right amount of awkwardness and earnestness. His chemistry with Bradley is fantastic, and it is easy to understand why the young lass loves her time with the strange but sweet man.
As Sandra, Catherine Ashmore Bradley gets an amazing scene while sitting on a bench outside the funeral that proves what a bright future she has as an actress. The supporting cast is just as dynamic and fantastic. Whitney Harris, as Sandra’s mom, has a scene near the end when she finally unleashes her built up anger. She plays it perfectly- not too over the top but with the right amount of ferocity to properly sell it.
Mr. Sam is fantastic in every way. The emotions are real, the story is engaging, and the characters are compelling. Everyone involved should feel proud of what they accomplished here.
Mr. Sam (2019) Directed by John Zeus Kontoyannis. Written by John Zeus Kontoyannis. Starring Christopher Piccione, Catherine Ashmore Bradley, Whitney Harris, Natasha Strang, Matt Hopkins, Steve Blanchard, Julien Prevost, Cathy Finlay. Mr. Sam screened at the 2019 Dances With Films.
10 out of 10 Stars