Director: Kenneth Lonergan | 111 minutes | drama | Actors: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Rory Kulkin, Jon Tenney, J. Smith-Cameron, Gaby Hoffman, Amy Ryan, Michael Countryman, Adam LeFevre, Halley Feiffer, Whitney Vance, Peter Kerwin, Betsy Aidem, Lisa Altomare, Josh Lucas, Kim Parker
Kenneth Lonergan wrote the screenplays for such well-known films as “Gangs of New York” and “Analyze This.” He makes his directorial debut with “You Can Count on Me”, for which he also wrote the screenplay. Unlike the first two films mentioned, “You Can Count on Me” is a modest story about a brother and a sister who both try to make the best of their lives in their own way and about the special bond they have with each other.
“You Can Count on Me” centers on the relationship between sister Sammy and brother Terry, which is deeply affected by the death of their parents, who die while they are still children. While Sammy is responsible and grown up raising her son on her own in the village where she and her brother were born, Terry makes a mess of his life, wandering from job to job and even having just before visiting his sister. goes to jail for a while. When Terry stays with his sister for a while, their relationship seems to improve. Terry gets along with his nephew and starts acting like a big brother of his. And Sammy jumps a bit out of touch and starts an affair with her married boss. Still, it turns out that in this case, people don’t really change for both Terry and Sammy, and their relationship is put back into focus when Terry makes a decision that Sammy absolutely disagrees with.
With “You Can Count on Me”, Lonergan has made a moving film that never goes over the top and becomes a melodrama. The story is brilliant in its simplicity and stands out for the subtlety with which the characters are portrayed. Despite a fairly slow pace, the film manages to fascinate all the time. This is in large part due to Lonergan’s cast-iron screenplay that has won multiple awards and was even nominated for an Oscar. The characters feel like people of flesh and blood and that makes them attractive to watch.
The fact that the characters come into their own so well is of course also largely due to Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo (in his first major film role) who both play a strong role. Ruffalo’s character is actually a bit of an immature freeloader who occasionally does things that really can’t, but he still manages to portray him in such a way that he never loses the viewer’s sympathy. And Linney also convinces as his big sister who often behaves more like his mother than his sister and who especially wants her brother to play a bigger role in her life and that of her son. Also the supporting roles are good, little Rory Kulkin is really endearing as little Rudy without ever getting obnoxious and Matthew Broderick is also nice as Linney’s obnoxious boss who wants to convey the authority at work that he clearly doesn’t have at home.