You Can Count on Me
Distributed by: Paramount Classics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Sometimes you find yourself staring at repeats of the news and realize, “Why am I still watching this?” Sometimes that realization leads you to channel search. This time around, it led me to a movie I had never heard of before starring Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo called You Can Count on Me. I stopped channel-surfing long enough to become intrigued.
You Can Count on Me stars Laura Linney as Sammy Prescott, a single mom working as a lending officer in a bank in her hometown of Scottsville, New York. She’s been living in the same town since she was a kid, but her brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo), moved out a long time ago in an effort to escape the dull life. He has been searching for something more interesting ever since.
After months of not hearing from her brother, Sammy receives a letter informing her that he is coming to Scottsville for a visit. Of course, in the back of her mind, she knows that Terry needs money, but she is desperate to rekindle that brother and sister link, strained since the death of their parents in a car accident years ago. The visit comes at a particularly stressful time in Sammy’s life. She has a new boss (Matthew Broderick) who is a tad anal about how the bank should be run and has a hard time understanding Sammy’s childcare woes. Her son, Rudy (Rory Culkin), is of an age where the absence of his father is troubling to him, but Sammy isn’t exactly ready to discuss the details of his father to her son.
Terry’s return home is fraught with uncertainty. He hasn’t been acclimating well thanks to feelings of abandonment and his constant search for something new and exciting. Terry has had a problem getting close to people since the loss of his parents and hasn’t exactly made the best choices in his life. Despite that, Sammy thinks that having Terry around might be good for Rudy. Things start off rocky, but eventually Terry and Rudy bond, especially since Terry does things with Rudy and talks to Rudy about things Sammy wouldn’t dream of discussing with her son.
And though some of Terry’s interaction could be seen as irresponsible, who is Sammy to judge? After all, she just started an affair with her boss, despite the fact that she knows he is married and his wife is pregnant. But when Terry’s decision to introduce Rudy to the father he has never met goes horribly wrong, Sammy realizes both she and Terry are spiraling down the wrong paths. Now both Sammy and Terry must ask themselves what they really want out of life, while still considering what is best for Rudy.
You Can Count on Me is an acclaimed film, receiving a number of accolades and I can see why. The dramatic performances by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo are terrific. Rory Culkin is absolutely adorable in this role and a very decent actor, even at his age. I actually think Rory may be a better actor than his brother, McCauley. Matthew Broderick is despicable as Sammy’s boss and you find yourself wondering why she would even want to have an affair with him. However, you don’t see much hope for her relationship with her current boyfriend (Jon Tenney) either.
What you do find yourself wondering is what it was about the death of Terry and Sammy’s parents that changed them so much and made it difficult for both characters to move forward in their lives. And yes, I say both, because, though Terry is the one with more visible societal difficulties and Sammy seems to have it together, you start to realize that Sammy has a social awkwardness and an issue with trying to find a fix for problems in a roundabout way, rather than confronting them head on. You wonder, at the end of the film, will these characters ever get their acts together?
I enjoyed the film for the most part, but felt the ending was a bit of a letdown. I felt like nothing was really resolved for the characters…with the exception of Rudy, who now knew a bit more about his father and his mother’s reluctance to talk about him. All good dramatic acting and quirky moments of comic relief aside, I think that a little closure could have gone a long way with this film.