You Can Count On Me

You Can Count On Me


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Stereotypes are other people.

Sammy is a divorced lady in her early thirties, who has a job at the bank and goes to church on Sunday. She has an eight-year-old son, Rudy Jr, and an occasional lover, called Bob, who is clean cut and dependable.

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Terry is Sammy's brother. He is a drifter, who can't hold onto jobs or relationships. He comes home to a quiet little town in upstate New York after years in Alaska, Florida and Massachusetts. All he wants is a loan from his sister, but he stays and hangs out with Rudy.

The cliches are there, waiting to be embraced - the prissy sister, the loser on the scrounge, the kid who talks about a daddy he has never seen. What will happen, you expect, is that the loser corrupts the kid and the sister has a nervous breakdown and the law becomes involved and someone gets shot.

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan knocks those cliches down and chucks them in the trash. A stereotype means nothing to him. Sammy's life is not so sweet and safe. She is sexually frustrated and only hanging on by pretending to conform to this narrow God-fearing community, because there's nothing else. She is afraid, almost every day, that something will happen to Rudy. She's on the edge, while behaving as if everything is fine.

Terry's pain is in his eyes. He expects people to look at him and accuse. He expects to be vilified. And it makes him mad.

"I am not the kind of guy everyone says I am," he shouts.

He talks to Rudy like a buddy. He doesn't play games, or take care how he speaks. His honesty hurts, but there's no fakery there. Rudy appreciates that, although his mother does not, especially when she discovers they've been to a bar to play pool way after his bedtime.

The performances by Oscar-nominated Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo are riveting. Rory Culkin, Macaulay's youngest brother, brings mature understanding to a role that could so easily have been cute. Lonergan's script is reminiscent of Five Easy Pieces. It avoids sentimentality and explores layers of damage beneath the surface of family relations.

The low key, small town ambience is a ruse.

Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2001
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A drifter brother returns home to stay with sister and eight-year-old son in upstate New York.
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Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Writer: Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Rory Culkin, Jon Tenney, Gaby Hoffman

Year: 2000

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2000

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