Projections - Movie Reviews

You Can Count On Me You Can Count On Me

A brother and sister relationship is explored with surprising depth in Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count On Me, which shared the Sundance Grand Jury Prize this year.  The highly thoughtful scripting by the compassionate director, known for writing the hit comedy Analyze This, offers  touching drama filled with wit which refreshingly doesn't have an emphasis on romance.  You Can Count On Me features a riveting drifter, Mark Ruffailo, whose Terry affects the life of sister Sammy, a single mother, done with unforeseen expertise by Laura Linney, who surpasses her work in The Truman Show and Primal Fear.

Lonergan strikingly takes to directing his new movie with a superior sense of small town life and relations, cogently adapted from one of the helmer's workshop plays.  The sharply lense punctuated by classical music and crisp sequences takes place in Scotsville, NY, a nice upstate town where Ruffailo's Terry Prescott begins to change the life of sister (Linney).

Sammy's life is conditioned by a quiet, spiritual existence, being divorced after a short marriage, she closely watches her eight year old son Rudy (Rory Culkin) who wants to know about his father.   A restaurant scene beautifully delineates the feelings between siblings who are quite dissimilar in character and how they live each day.  She is dating a kind fellow (John Tenney) who looks for commitment in a relationship that isn't sexually gratifying.

On the other hand, the Brando-esque Terry is a manic wandering type who has no stability in his life and his immaturity shows as he returns to his hometown for money after ditching a pregnant girlfriend.  The emotional bond is astonishing between Terry and Sammy as they have both reacted differently from being orphaned when their parents died in a car accident.

How Lonergan develops the main triangle between Sammy, Terry and Rudy with Terry bonding with Rudy like a father, is the focus of the film.  It's how the leads take on each other's personalities that gives You Can Count On Me a dimension that accumulates a genuine power from Sammy and Terry as they deal with the ramifications of their new roles.

The appealingly complex narrative includes Matthew Broderick, the rigid bank manager boss of Sammy's loan officer and Lonergan himself as a priestly confidante of the now wild single mom who hastily enters into an adulterous situation with her superior.  Though the bodacious side of Sammy may be diagrammed and Lonergan doesn't offer the rich backup roles that you might expect, You Can Count On Me focuses with terrific aplomb on its primary dynamic, understanding the workings with a family.

You Can Count On Me
A Top Ten pick for 2000

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