Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote and directed You Can Count on Me, is a playwright, and the lack of music video experience on his résumé is, these days, a welcome relief: characters talk to one another in this beautiful, compassionate, articulate domestic drama, which won the screenwriting award and shared this year’s Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Actors work together smoothly, drawing from one another more precisely shaped performances than they might otherwise have known they were capable of, and the camera moves unobtrusively in an organically structured plot…
Sammy Prescott (Laura Linney) and her brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo), orphaned as children, have found very different ways of adapting to impermanence: she leads a life of habit and overcontrol, raising her eight-year-old son on her own in the upstate New York house in which she grew up. He has pushed away grief by not committing anywhere, to anyone, and strewing mess in his wake. But when Terry drops in to visit Sammy – he needs money – the unexpected attachment he forms with his nephew rattles his sister so much, she’s shaken out of complacency.
You Can Count on Me is so delicate and low keyed a drama of deep feelings that it hinges all the more crucially on dramatic subtlety. And in that, Lonergan can count on a superb cast… Lonergan himself appears as a priest – and, in highly cynical times, creates a thoughtful, serious clergyman in a few lines of dialogue. — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly, 10/11/00
I love the way Lonergan shows his characters in flow, pressed this way and that by emotional tides and practical considerations. This is not a movie about people solving things. This is a movie about people living day to day with their plans, fears and desires. It’s rare to get a good movie about the touchy adult relationship of a sister and brother. Rarer still for the director to be more fascinated by the process than the outcome. This is one of the best movies of the year. — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 17/11/00