Sam (Sean Penn) is a mentally challenged adult who works at Starbucks in Santa Monica. He is a popular fellow there with the regulars, congratulating them on their drink selections with the oft repeated phrase "That's a wonderful choice."
His life is complicated with the birth of a daughter whom he names Lucy after the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." The homeless woman who gave birth to his child flees in the face of the challenge of looking after the baby. With the help of his neighbor Annie (Dianne Wiest), who is agoraphobic, and the assistance of a circle of mentally challenged friends, Sam pulls off the near impossible task of raising Lucy on his own.
Seven years later, Lucy (Dakota Fanning) still loves having a father who is childlike and enthusiastic about everything. But when she starts school, things change. Lucy realizes that he is very different from other adults. After Sam is picked up for soliciting a hooker (he didn't), things go from bad to worse with the Department of Child and Family Services taking Lucy away from him. Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer), a hotshot lawyer, is convinced by her colleagues to take Sam's custody case pro bono.
Writer and director Jessie Nelson (Corrina, Corrina) has fashioned a heart affecting drama that is wonderfully buoyed up by contemporary versions of Beatle hits. Sam is given plenty of moral support from his friends in the custody battle. But the one person who is assisted most is Rita, a rich lawyer with an empty marriage and a son she can't communicate with or handle.
Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn have called children "live-in Zen masters." Parents must be willing to be patient and always stay in the present moment. Oddly enough that is Sam's greatest gift, one that he practices daily with Lucy. No wonder her love for him increases every minute she's away from her loving father.