The chemistry between Sammy and Terry is so strong that we repeatedly remember the two stunned young children sitting in the front pew at their parents' funeral.
You Can Count on Me is the remarkable achievement of two actors and their fine support team. Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo play Sammy and Terry, a sister and brother who share no similarities in physical appearance or lifestyle, but still project the deep familiarity born of growing up together. Their sibling chemistry is both convincing and moving.
Orphaned by a car crash that killed their parents, they are adults as the movie begins, and both still reflect the incompleteness of young lives lived without either parent. Sammy is the single mother of Rudy (Rory Culkin) and the sister of Terry, a drifter who shows up to say hello every few years. She has a treasured file of the few letters he has sent and is waiting for him now.
Terry is the kind of guy who causes trouble wherever he goes, even when his motives are pure. His idea of a life plan, "I really liked Alaska; it made me feel good," is exactly who he is. He's either late for something, in trouble for fighting, or in the middle of his vanishing act. Sammy, rooted in the orderly life she has made in her hometown--she's a loan officer in a bank, lives in the family house--begs him, "Don't go anywhere until you know where you're going." On this subject, neither hears a word the other says.
In another way, both are impulsive. Whenever someone tips the balance on Terry's scale of justice, he starts a fight. Whenever Sammy jumps into bed with her married boss or her sometime boyfriend, she feels not guilt exactly, but "Whoops, there I go again." As certain as it is that Terry will drift forever, Sammy will stay in Scottsville, tied to a family root that isn't there. She will tend to the twin anchors in her life, her son and her job.
The chemistry between Sammy and Terry is so strong that we repeatedly remember the two stunned young children sitting in the front pew at their parents' funeral. There is no manipulation in writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's fine script. He lets his actors build their characters without gimmicks. Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo create Sammy and Terry as authentic individuals and as sister and brother, each needing desperately to know the other is there even when they are going separate ways. Watching them reveal the depth of their bond is astonishing.
Matthew Broderick overdoes his role as the meticulous bank manager ("Who changed the colors on my computer screen?), but Jon Tenney is exactly right as Bob, the utterly limited guy who has taken over a year to decide he might like to marry Sammy. Rory Culkin is good and refreshingly not cute as the little boy. Josh Lucas is frighteningly convincing as Sammy's ex-husband. Kenneth Lonergan has made a movie that will rank among the year's best character studies. Remember the names Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo. We'll be seeing a lot of them.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Paramount Pictures
Rating : R
Running time : 1h49m
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