Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist), an 18 year old Connecticut high school senior with autism. He talks in a monotone voice, can’t understand social cues, is brutally honest, takes everything very literally and is obsessed with penguins and all things Antarctica. To focus, he wears earphones to filter out sounds.
Sam lives with his family, including his caring father Doug (Michael Rapaport), an EMT who abandoned the family for eight months when Sam was born because he had a hard time relating to his son’s autism; Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Sam’s devoted and very organized mom who now struggles to find life outside of being Sam’s guardian by having a fling with a local bartender (Raul Castillo); and Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine), Sam’s younger sister who breaks a track-and-field record at her high school and receives an athletic scholarship. She is Sam’s protector and won’t anyone beat him up, except herself.
Sam’s friends include Zahid (Nik Dodani), a bad-advice-giving best friend and coworker at a Techtropolis electronics shop who insists on hugging Sam’s mom each time he sees her; Paige (Jenna Boyd), a schoolmate and later girlfriend; and Julia Sasaki (Amy Okuda), a 27 year old therapist who helps Sam navigate his love life, friends, and family while he strives for independence. At one point, Sam thought to pursue Julia romantically.