‘S.A.M’ Tells Us How to Celebrate Love, Queerness, and Disability

S.A.M.

It’s not always that you see a film that intersects queer romance with disability, but would you believe us when we say there is a short film that tells us a great story that celebrates both in an endearing (although teetering close to bittersweet) way? 

Let us introduce you to ‘S.A.M’, a 2020 British coming-of-age story that tells the story of two teenagers both named Sam who form a bond while in the swings in their local park, discovering friendship, love and self acceptance. It stars Sam Retford (‘Ackley Bridge’) and BAFTA winner and Mencap ambassador George Webster.

So, what happens in ‘S.A.M’? Read on.

 

WARNING: Spoilers alert. Read at your own risk.

S.A.M.

Sam, a high school boy with Down syndrome, hangs out with his classmates in a park. They notice another student by the swing and talk about him, mentioning how he’s a loner and making fun of him for wearing the same clothes everyday. Sam admits to them that he actually has a crush on the said guy, although none of his classmates seem to actually pay attention to his confession. As they all disperse and leave, Sam heads to the student, takes the swing next to him, and greets him.

Turns out, the student is also named Sam (for the sake of this recap, we’re differentiating him from the other Sam as “Tall Sam”). Tall Sam tells Sam that they used to be in the same history class last year. They break the ice by sharing random facts like what the name “Sam” means (Tall Sam says it’s “listener” according to a fridge magnet he saw once), and Sam teaches him how to say “Sam” and “Fuck off” in Makaton, a communication tool for people with disabilities. He also shares that he wants to go to dance college after high school, and Tall Sam asks him to show him moves. Sam hesitates at first, but he gives in, and he even makes Tall Sam dance.

When Sam’s phone rings, he ignores it. He says that it’s his parents who are overly protective of him and still treats him like a child. Tall Sam, on the other hand, says that he has not seen his mom in days. It isn’t long before Sam’s dad shows up in the park, mad at him for not picking the phone up and because he still has dance class that day. Sam leaves, and Tall Sam quickly tells him that he’ll be at the park on the weekend. Sam looks back, interested, but doesn’t make any promise.

Still, they manage to meet that weekend at the same park and same swing, although it appears that Sam sneaked out without his dad’s permission. Tall Sam tries to convince him to text his dad just to let him know he’s safe, with a tiny bit of argument about how Sam feels so overprotected and a bit jealous of how Tall Sam can do whatever he wants. Tall Sam says no one cares about him, and Sam quickly rebuts with an “I do.” As the conversation resolves, a young mom with her child who wants to try the swing comes to them. She tries to get them off the swing, but it ends up with Tall Sam and the mom arguing. Sam then takes advantage of his disability and pretends to be upset. Tall Sam takes the cue, and the mother and child leave. As soon as they’re alone, the two laugh about it. 

Then it’s a montage of them having fun and enjoying weekend after weekend.

In one of their meetings, Sam tries to play “snog, avoid, marry” (a British version of “fuck, kill, marry”) as he points at the three moms. Tall Sam says he’ll avoid them all because they “all look like scrags.” But Sam wants answers, so he urges Sam to do it again. It makes Tall Sam anxious, and he angrily comes out and says that he doesn’t like girls. When Sam questions if he likes boys, Tall Sam tells him to stop. It gets awkwardly silent, broken only when Tall Sam confides that he has not told anyone about his preference. Sam isn’t surprised, and says that he’s glad about Tall Sam’s honesty.

Before they can even carry on with their conversation, Sam’s classmates appear and walk towards them. One of the girls offers to text Sam’s dad, worried that he’s hanging out with Tall Sam, but Sam blurts out that he likes Tall Sam. They then tell the girls off to leave — which they do — albeit not without an exchange of insults.

It’s Christmas Day when they meet again, and this time, they drink beer. However, Sam’s dad arrives, mad because he’s been trying to call Sam but Sam isn’t picking up. They leave Tall Sam alone who does a “Fuck off” in Makaton.

Tall Sam stays in the park until it’s dark, smoking a cigarette. His mom appears, surprised and mad that her son’s smoking. She says that he’s not 16 yet, not old enough to smoke, but Tall Sam tells her that he actually turned 16 a week ago. She decides then to kick him out of her house. When Tall Sam asks where he’s going to stay, she says that he’s old enough to figure it out himself before walking away.

S.A.M

When Sam returns to the park the next day, a bag on one hand, he does not see Tall Sam by the swing. He texts him, asking where he is, but he doesn’t get any response. He stays, but Tell Sam does not show up.

It isn’t until New Year’s even when they meet again. Tall Sam says that he’s been kicked out so he’s staying with a friend, and he apologizes for getting Sam in trouble on Christmas Day. But Sam says it’s okay, it’s not Tall Sam’s fault anyway. Tall Sam then gives Sam a simple drawing of them in frame, which Sam really liked. Sam then brings out two cans of beer to celebrate the New Year. As it counts down to midnight, the two lock eyes and kiss just as the fireworks light up the sky.

When they break the kiss, Tall Sam (gay-)panics and runs off for a bit before coming back to the swing. It’s silent for a while, until they start giggling. They leave the park, holding each other’s hand.

‘S.A.M’ is a heartwarming short film about queer teenage romance with a respectful representation of disability and queerness. While it could have taken a more ideal approach, it decides not to be too detached from reality — almost reflective of reality, that it does not fear showing dysfunctional families and a tinge of misogyny as a reflection of fear and heteronormativity.

 

Watch ‘S.A.M’ on GagaOOLala.

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