You Can Count on Me

Rated: R
Stars: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo

Smart folks looking for some seriously good drama will want to mosey on over to the cinema to catch “You Can Count On Me”, a true gem of a film where the story is extraordinarily real and the emotions and performances are brutally honest.

It’s a small, quiet film without all the frills and thrills of most Hollywood pictures these days but it is firmly packed with characters for whom you care deeply. Samantha, “Sammy”, (Laura Linney) and Terry (Mark Ruffalo) are siblings whose parents were killed long ago in a car crash. It’s years later and we now find Sammy still living in her parents’ house in rural, upstate New York and raising her 8-year old son Rudy (Rory Culkin). She’s a responsible woman who works as a loan officer in the small town bank and occasionally dates the local nice guy named Bob (Jon Tenny).

After a two year absence, brother Terry, a likeable but aimless drifter, shows up looking to bum some money from his sister to pay for a girlfriend’s abortion. He wants to leave the next day but Sammy convinces him to spend some time at home. And so begins family life for 2 very different people. Terry slowly befriends the fatherless Rudy, wanting to know why Rudy likes the same town that Terry himself had come to hate. Rudy’s small world expands considerably as Terry plays bad-boy older brother to him, like taking him to work a small construction site with him, playing pool at the local bar and even taking him to see the father he has never known.

Sammy, meanwhile, desperately tries to relax her worries about Terry’s irresponsible ways while at the same time trying to cope with her new beancounter boss at the bank, Brian Everett (Matthew Broderick) who puts more and more pressure on her everyday. And then the oddest thing happens, Sammy becomes embroiled in an affair with the already married Brian, a strangely exciting predicament.

This film gives us flawed characters and yet we care for them. We do so because these are people we could just as easily know in our own lives or have in our own families. They are very real.

There is also a great deal of humor in this film and it comes quite naturally as do the performances. I especially applaud Mark Ruffalo’s performance as one with many interesting layers.

The film is a finely-tuned offering, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan who also plays the priest. If it seems a bit shaky at the start, ignore it, rewards will soon come your way.

Lotta says “You Can Count On Me” is sublime. It’s rated R for language and sexuality.