You Can Count On Me


Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Written by:Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, Matthew Broderick, Kenneth Lonergan
Released: July 5, 2001
Grade: A

Life isn’t simple and life isn’t easy.  Sammy (Linney) has lived in the small town of Scottsville all her life.  She’s divorced, works at the local bank and smothers her 8-year old son, Rudy (Culkin).  The ideas of new bank manager, Brian (Broderick), aren’t going down well with Sammy who refers to him as “the worst manager we’ve ever had”.

Sammy has felt alone for a long time.  Both parents were killed in a car accident when she was young and her brother hasn’t been heard from since working in Alaska over six months ago.  Her ex-husband split and suffice to say, isn’t someone she wants to see again.

Unexpectedly, she receives a letter from Terry (Ruffalo), her brother, who writes to say he’s coming home.  Sammy is overjoyed by the news and in her enthusiasm, thinks that everything will be like it always was.  As we’ve all learnt, time changes people and Terry isn’t how Sammy remembered him to be.  He’s broke, has just spent three months in jail and has a girlfriend who just unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide.  He hasn’t really come home to visit Sammy - he’s come home because there’s nowhere else to go.

Despite initial reservations from Sammy and Rudy, Terry’s presence breaths new life into the household.  He develops a bond with the impressionable Rudy who appreciates a male influence.  Sammy just loves being surrounded by the two most important people in her life and she suddenly finds herself with purpose and direction.

The developing instability in the house has brought secrets to the surface.  Rudy wants to know about his father, Sammy is sleeping with her boss and Terry’s depressed at having no future prospects.  As stress levels rise, all three realise things are changing and will never be the same again...

This is a beautiful story from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan and you will be hard pressed to find two better performances this year than those offered by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo.  Both characters are vulnerable and their facial expressions say more than words ever could.  Scenes between Linney and Ruffalo are absorbing thanks to the honestly furnished dialogue crafted by Lonergan.  It examines human emotions that are often considered too in-depth to explore in a simple movie.

Linney was rewarded with a deserved Academy Award nomination (but lost to Julia Roberts) but unfortunately Ruffalo couldn’t muster the same attention in the Oscar advertising bandwagon.  Lonergan was rewarded by his peers when the Writers Guild of America found his original screenplay worthy of the award for the year’s best.

You Can Count On Me is frankly one of the best films released to date in 2001.  It’s a story about love, it’s a story about friendship and it’s a story about family.  There are people we love who shape our own lives but it’s usually only in retrospect that we understand and appreciate just how much so.  Those special people, who no matter what, we can always count on.