Life As A House was produced in 2001, and the film’s take on cancer and how people deal with illness is even more relevant today. Cancer strikes more and more lives every day. Some people are provided with a miracle and battle the cancer, while others are given a few short months with their loved ones. The awful thing about cancer is that it doesn’t care who you are, how many years you’ve lived, or how many people you are responsible for.
Life As A House revolves around a 17 year-old-boy named Sam. Sam is a very angry teenager that experiments with and also heavily uses a variety of drugs such as marijuana and pharmaceuticals. At this point in his life, Sam resides with his mother, step-father, and their two children and wants absolutely nothing to do with any of them. He doesn’t follow rules, nor does he have any respect for himself or anyone else. Covered in piercings and sporting blue dye in his hair, Sam seems to do what he wants without any concern for the consequences his actions may cause.
Robin, Sam’s mother is battling two different struggles in her life. For one, her son Sam has become so difficult to deal with that she finds herself not loving him anymore. Being a mother to him is something she is not sure how to do. Secondly, her current husband, Peter, is more concerned with his job and being a tough man than loving Robin and his children.
Finally, Sam’s father George lives alone in a rundown shack overlooking the ocean. He barely sees Sam and isn’t a very active father. After losing his job, George finds out he has an aggressive form of cancer and has only a few months to live. With the time he has left, George decides that he wants to become closer to his son and build the dream house he has always wanted.
George tells Robin that he will take Sam for the summer even though Sam is planning to go to Tahoe with his friends from school to party. Sam isn’t given a choice and moves into the garage with George, as George has already begun tearing down the old shack. Sam is very angry about being forced to live with his father, whom he barely knows, and turns to prescription pain killers he finds in his father’s drawer. Finally, George finds a bag of marijuana in Sam’s pants and flushes it all down the toilet, which not only angers Sam, but puts him in a bind as the marijuana was not his. Sam must now find a way to repay $300 to the neighbor girl Alyssa’s boyfriend Josh for the drugs. After a few more days of stubbornness, Sam finally agrees to help George with the house if he is paid for his work. The project is underway and Robin begins stopping in to check on the boys, bringing them snacks and lunches.
After seeing what they were up to, Robin decides she wants to be a part of it. She involves her younger children and begins falling in love with George again. After weeks and weeks of building the new house, George grows weaker and finally tells Robin and Sam that he is sick. Robin is heartbroken while Sam is very angry because he felt that George tricked him into loving him. As the house is nearly complete, George collapses and is admitted to the hospital. Sam pushes aside his anger and visits George in the hospital one last time. George passes on, and Sam completes the house in his honor. Throughout the film, Sam evolves from a rebellious, drug-using teenager to a loving, respectful young man free of drugs. Robin’s husband finally sees the error of his ways and vows to be a better husband and father. In the end, many lives are changed because George decided to live his last months the best he could.
Out of all the characters, Sam seems to have the most battles in his life. From his drug use, to struggling with his sexual identity and fighting with his family, Sam is a very lost individual. Sam cares about nothing and no one, and simply wants to be left alone. His drug abuse concerns us first and foremost, especially since he is using more than just marijuana. In addition, Sam is willing to prostitute himself to earn the money for drugs at one point in the movie, which adds a whole other realm of his sexual identity.
Sam has such a high drug usage that we felt it would be beneficial to get him clean first. Admission to a rehab facility where he could get treatment for both his drug use and depression would be good. Here, Sam would be able to come down off the drugs in a safe environment, and also be able to express his true feelings as to what has been happening in his life. Sam could be acting the way he is for a number of different reasons. The main two reasons that stand out are his parents, especially the absence of his father, and his confusion with his sexual identity. Sam does not have any solid guidance in his life.
His mother is ready to give up on him and his father is practically nonexistent. Without their guidance, Sam is virtually giving up on himself. In addition, his confusion over his sexual identity most likely has him angry and afraid. The drugs block off any feelings he may have and staying high means he does not have to face his problems. Sam needs a combination of medication and treatment to handle these issues. The starting point would definitely be the rehab center where he would be able to stop using harmful drugs and start a medication to help him with his depression. After a decent amount of time spent there, say a month or two, Sam could attend regular therapy to monitor his progress and medication for a few months or the remaining year after.
We think that although Sam is stubborn, this procedure will work for him. An important part of his treatment would be to get his parents very involved to let Sam know they truly care. Toward the middle of the movie, Sam starts to realize that his parents do care about him and he becomes a much more pleasant person. This knowledge would be key in his treatment as well. In addition, Sam is young and to have caught these issues at such an early age is hopeful. He has so much life ahead of him, and solving these problems for him now leads to a much brighter future.
Winkler, I. (2001). Life as a house [Motion picture]. United States: New Cinema Line Production, Inc.