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You Can Count On Me

Director/Writer:Kenneth Lonergan
Paramount Classics; 111 minutes; R
Cast:Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick

The only hackneyed element of You Can Count On Me it its title. This Sundance sensation is an unpretentious, sturdily constructed film. Kenneth Lonergan, screenwriter for Analyze This debuts as director. His own script provides top-notch source material. It follows a season in the lives of single mother Sammy (Laura Linney) and her reckless brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo). Terry drops in on Sammy's unambitious world to ask for money. Terry's extended visit catalyzes argument and self-reflection. The easy rider criticizes Sammy's lifestyle (she still dwells in their dull upstate New York hometown) and, more dangerously, becomes a father figure to her son (Rory Culkin).

The depth of character and situation make You Can Count On Me so strong. The movie has no overarching message, nor a reliance on narrative trickery, hasty symbolism, or simple declarations about the world. It presents a brother and sister who are recognizably real. In a year of Hollywood underachievement, You Can Count On Me stands out as one to watch.

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