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Kenneth Lonergan’s behind-the-camera debut, You Can Count On Me relied on the strength of his writing over his less developed directorial chops. His stage background is evident in the theatrical nature of his heartfelt interchanges and emotional speeches; Lonergan succeeds in striking a balance where lesser-writers would struggle, finding an interesting depth of subtext despite leaving very little unsaid in his storytelling.
Swapping visual flair for grounded and impactful characters, Lonergan’s Oscar nominated screenplay tells the story of Sammy and Terry Prescott, siblings who lost their parents during childhood. The now-adult pair have drifted apart as Sammy battles through life as a single mother in their childhood home and Terry scrapes by, aimlessly moving between jobs and cities across the country. Low on luck and lower on cash, Terry returns to his sleepy hometown of Scottsville to reunite with his sister while tapping her for a quick loan.
Terry and Sammy perfectly capture the complex relationship shared by dysfunctional siblings in adulthood. They are both flawed, both distinctly human, both trying to make sense of a confusing world and its daunting choices. On top of being fantastically written, Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney (who received an Oscar nomination for her work) bring an additional element of magic to their roles, natural and genuine while retaining a sharpness in their uneasy dynamic. You Can Count On Me stands as strong as ever in 2015, exploring the strength and fragility of familial bonds with less sentimentality than would usually be expected in similar dramas. Lonergan’s film is worth viewing for its performances alone, Matthew Broderick and Rory Culkin (brother of the infamous Macauley) shine alongside the rock-solid leads. Sensitive, quiet and ultimately real, this is a small yet powerfully resonant story that unfolds with very little show but buckets of heart.
You Can Count On Me is available to stream on Netflix in the UK & USA.