You Can Count on Me (2000)

You Can Count on Me
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Rory Culkin, Jon Tenney, J. Smith-Cameron, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Ryan, Kenneth Lonnergan
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 21.10.2016

Sammy (Laura Linney) and Terry (Mark Ruffalo) have always been close as siblings, but ever since Terry left their small hometown, they only rarely see each other. Now Terry is back and Sammy is overjoyed, as is her son Rudy (Rory Culkin). But the reason Terry is back is quite prosaic – he needs money and would prefer to get it an leave pretty immediately. But as he connects with Rudy and re-connects with Sammy, he ends up staying longer than intended.

Watching You Can Count on Me so shortly after Manchester by the Sea was an intersting experience, as it both reveals how much time Lonnergan has spent circling around pretty similar themes and how much he has grown as a filmmaker. You Can Count on Me is by no means a bad movie, but compared to Manchester, it’s nowhere near as polished.

You Can Count on Me feels a bit like a pre-study to Manchester: plotwise they share the brother, who is sometimes prone to violence and has a difficult history, returning to his hometown to bond with his sibling’s child. Thematically it asks question about forgiveness, moving on, growing up and healing. Lonnergan approaching similar topics over a long period of time and gaining experience with filmmaking, it’s nor surprise that Manchester feels like the rounder, better put together film than You Can Count on Me.

But that is not to say that it isn’t worth watching or that you get everything you could get from it and more by watching Manchester. For one, there’s Laura Linney and her Sammy who is the biggest difference between the two films and both actress and character are simply wonderful.

Also, Lonnergan himself has a small role in the film as a priest and it’s simply hilarious, as is Broderick’s Brian, Sammy’s uptight boss. But most importantly, Sammy’s and Terry’s relationship feels perfectly realistic and smart in its portrayal of siblings – and that’s not something we see everyday in films as sibling relationships are rarely focused on and only shallowly portrayed.

While I usually don’t like comparing films so directly with each other, in this case I have to return to Manchester once more, wondering how I would have felt about both films if I had seen You Can Count on Me first, and with my constant comparison creating something of a sibling rivalry between the films myself. But trying to put that aside, I think that both films can and do stand very well on their own.

Summarizing: I liked it.

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