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:: You Can Count On Me

Prior to its release in Australia, this film had much going for it, in terms of the awards and accolades it had won in North America. Therefore, the various movie aficionados around town have eagerly awaited its release here. The wait has been worth it, in that, although appearing to be a simple family drama, “You Can Count On Me” is not that simple a story. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan does a terrific job in accurately capturing the love-hate relationship within a family. There may be a total difference in character between siblings, but it is all bound together by love. This story demonstrates how one can slide from one emotion to the other, and even overlap.

The film opens with a short sequence showing two young children attending the funeral of their parents, who were killed in a car accident. It flash forwards to the present day where Sammy (Laura Linney), a loan officer at the local bank in Scottsdale, still lives in her childhood house, raising a son Rudy (Rory Culkin) as a single mother.

Meanwhile, Sammy’s brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) is a troubled wanderer, not sure of his next move. He abruptly leaves his pregnant girlfriend and heads home to Scottsdale to borrow money from his sister. His unexpected arrival coincides with a new bank manager at Sammy’s work. Brian Everett (Matthew Broderick) comes in and rings the changes; one of which is to stop Sammy leaving work early to pick up Rudy from school to take him to his babysitter. Sammy has to call upon her brother to pick up Rudy. Sammy’s daily disciplines are now disrupted and she is aghast, in one instance, when Terry takes young Rudy around town after school, including some time in a poolroom. Over the course of this time, family wounds are aired, as Terry decides to stay indefinitely.

We are privy to how brother and sister cope with this situation, still seemingly haunted by their parents’ death all those years ago. Sammy and Terry have to deal with issues of responsibility and money. Rudy is becoming aware of what's’around him, learning from what he sees. Sammy as sexually reckless even as she throws tantrums over Terry’s decision-making, while Terry is influencing Rudy’s behaviour at the same time as he struggles to do the right thing himself. It’s interesting to note the changes in the three-way relationship. Director Lonergan catches all the nuances in the loving, yet contentious bond between Terry and Sammy. The script is beautifully written with penetrating characterisations and dialogue that is sometimes hilarious.

Rory Culkin shows a cunning alertness for an actor so young. Matthew Broderick serves as an interesting distraction for Sammy, in his role as the bank manager. But it’s the excellent performances by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo that reveal much about the film. Ruffalo, as Terry, has a volatile presence and, despite a troubled existence, shows some perception and decency in the role. He creates a great rapport with Laura Linney, who sparkles as Sammy. It’s the first time I can remember seeing her and she finds moments of sentimentality, wildness and loneliness that bring her character great dimension. Her emotions are especially poignant in the final scenes of the film.

One gets the feeling that, after living through this film, you’ve been a part of a believable and complex set of characters. The direction ensures the interest is maintained and, above all, convincing and engaging. All the accolades for this film are well deserved and, therefore, it is highly recommended

Screening at Cinema Nova, Rivoli Cinemas, and the Classic Cinema