Urban Cinefile
"I was at that Lolita phase in my life, although fortunately I hadn't had any such sexual experiences - "  -Dominique Swain on her role as Lolita
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Sammy (Laura Linney) and Terry Prescott (Mark Ruffalo) are brother and sister whose parents died in car crash long ago. Now in their mid thirties, Sammy, a single mom to eight-year-old Rudy (Rory Culkin), goes to church, works at the local bank, and dates Bob (Jon Tenney) - possibly the most boring man in the world. Terry has drifted between states, working odd jobs and generally getting in trouble. The siblings haven't spoken in a long time, and when Terry re-appears in their hometown to ask sis for a loan, both are affected by each other's presence. Terry bonds with the fatherless Rudy, and shows signs of straightening up. Sammy, on the other hand, delves into a fling with her boss (Matthew Broderick) and begins doubting her attraction to Bob. It's Terry's well intentioned visist to Rudy's long lost father that brings everything to a head.

Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo make this film a zinger. The supports are just as great, including young Rory Culkin (with a family acting reputation to maintain). But it starts with the script, a subtle and yet powerful work of observation; real writing where the characters are complicated and annoying like our family, and as irresistible as well. More than that, the detail of observation delivers loads of satisfaction for the audience in terms of recognisable humanity. That, really, is why we go to the movies. And as we recognise ourselves – parts of, of course – we also recognise the pain and the passion of living through the vagaries of ordinary life. There is nothing in the film we haven’t all experienced, one way or another, or observed. Take Matthew Broderick’s bank manager, for example . . . A film in which the story is secondary to the characters and their emotional travels, You Can Count On Me gives us a glimpse of American filmmaking that resonates with the essentials of cinema. It is touching and involving, with no easy answers.
Andrew L. Urban

It is such a pleasure to enjoy the spoils of an artist at work, and Kenneth Lonergan's feature debut You Can Count On Me gives us ample opportunity to appreciate his screenplay and understated, insightful approach. The story appears simple enough, but the rich complexity achieved by wonderfully complete characters and performances makes us realise that here is a story that has much more to offer than initially meets the eye. In short, You Can Count on Me is a film with class. It's funny, sad, poignant, compelling and above all honest. The characters are very true and we instinctively know these people who are brought splendidly to life by a flawless cast. We easily connect to their world; they may live in a small town, but their problems and challenges are anything but small. Laura Linney is wonderful as Sammy, the conscientious mum whose life is black and white, while Mark Ruffalo injects plenty of grit into Terry, the total antithesis of Sammy. Reminding me somewhat of a young Peter Falk, Terry with his shock of ruffled hair, constantly (and endearingly) looks as though he has just woken up. He is lost, at first not particularly likeable – until we get to know him and understand him. At the beginning of the film, Sammy and Terry seem to be worlds apart – she the model citizen, he the black sheep – but by the journey's end, their hues and differences are far fewer than we imagined. The development of the relationships are beautifully captured – between each of Terry, Sammy, her son Rudy (Rory Culkin, adorable) and her grumpy, inflexible boss Brian (Matthew Broderick zings), and beau Bob, whose honesty and gaucheness sneaks up on us. Culkin (is there no end to the talents from this family?) gives a standout performance: he behaves very naturally, just like a regular kid as opposed to a Hollywood representation of what a kid should be like. The words of the title are never spoken, but there is a moving moment when we know it applies. You Can Count On Me is a gentle and beautiful film with real characters, a sublime script and enough emotional triggers to make you feel.
Louise Keller

Isn't it strange - in a year of toilet humour movies, a filmmaker heads to the country and audiences receive a breath of fresh air! Kenneth Lonergan's relaxed, rambling, multi-award winning drama is about the sum of things said and unsaid. It's layered, complete, and fulfilling, where the disruption Terry makes in Sammy's life - and she in his - is as subtle as it is complex. These are ordinary people coping with very different lives. But bad decisions define Terry. He takes young Rudy (yes, a Culkin, the seventh and final) to shoot pool at a late-night bar and to visit his father for the first time - a gut wrenching scene indeed. All of this causes friction between the siblings. But like Sammy, we forgive Terry for his failings. He's been wandering highways for so long he's lost all sense of direction. "I'm just trying to get on with it," he muses. But it's Sammy who's a far more complex character. She smothers Rudy, as Terry points out, and her affair with her boss is irreverent but understandable. Her church-going goodness is highlighted by visits from the local priest (played by Lonergan), and when she sits him down with Terry, it beautifully juxtaposes their faiths - Sammy for God, Terry for the road. These are characters we care about, and a story that lasts in our memory. Laura Linney finally breaks out of minor roles in big films (The Truman Show, Primal Fear) for the role she deserves. And deserving she was of her Oscar nomination. She knows Sammy backwards - every frown, every smile tells a story. Similarly, Mark Ruffalo makes Terry a believable drifter, a guy with a good heart but a poor sense of direction. Matthew Broderick gives a nice variation on his conniving teacher in Election, and Rory Culkin gives a stern picture of a kid caught between two worlds. While these actors add immeasurably to the film, it's writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (co-writer on Analyze This and Rocky and Bullwinkle) who has crafted a touching portrait of unconditional love. And without that, where are we?
Shannon J. Harvey

Email this article

Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0



CAST: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Jon Tenney

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Lonergan

PRODUCER: John N. Hart, Jeffrey Sharp, Larry Meistrich, Barbara De Fina

SCRIPT: Kenneth Lonergan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Kazmierski

EDITOR: Anne McCabe

MUSIC: Lesley Barber


RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 5, 2001 (All states except Adelaide: August)

VIDEO RELEASE: November 23, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures Video

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020