Official Position - it's good
Starring Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, "You Can Count on Me" is a gentle, slightly quirky movie about family relationships. Actually quirky may be the wrong word for it as one moment it feels like your stereotypical commercial fare and the next it comes over a bit arty a bit like an indie movie. It goes from moving a long at a nice steady pace and then nearly coming to a grinding halt the next. But it's also surprisingly entertaining keeping you not so much enthralled but interested with the storyline as it slowly forms, going off on tangents only to return to the central theme.
Sammy (Laura Linney - The Truman Show) is a single mother living in Scottsville raising her 8 year old son Rudy (Rory Culkin - Signs) and living in the same house that her parents lived in before they died in a car crash when she was still young. Her life is surprisingly good, she has a decent job, a great relationship with her son and an on/off relationship with an ex boyfriend of sorts. But her seemingly happy life is turned upside down when not only does her brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo - Zodiac) rolls in to town for a visit but she gets a new boss, Brian (Matthew Broderick - Election), whose anal retentiveness causes Sammy issues at work.
For many "You Can Count on Me" will be a painful movie because it is not energetic, melodramatic or that exciting, nothing majorly exceptional really ever happens. But then for many the fact that the movie focuses on the subtle, the way relationships develop and change will appeal and it's this which is the movies strong point. It is a very straightforward movie which uses many traditional elements such as the single mother, the turbulent brother/sister relationship, and the work place issues all blending not so much smoothly but equally to make for an entertaining storyline. It delivers both a comfortable as well as uncomfortable storyline as it mirrors the peaks & troughs of real life relationships. It is in fact quite surprising that a movie which for the most plays it straight, not really heading anywhere major but examining how relationships change can be so interesting.
But it is not all straight laced, and elements are subtly embellished to make them funny to give the movie that spark it needs when it seems to be grinding to a halt with too much reality. There are witty comments, a scene which will make you smile being intentionally funny or slightly sentimental and it all blends remarkably well together with the injection of wit not feeling completely out of place or contrived.
Laura Linney who takes the main role of Sammy is an absolute delight delivering a performance which is realistic as she displays both the strength of being a single mother but also the vulnerability of one with the weight of the world on her shoulders. It's an interesting performance of an interesting character which makes you want to watch her and see how things turn out in her upside down life. Alongside Linney is Mark Ruffalo in a brilliant performance as the not so much troublesome brother Terry but more lost. Ruffalo manages to build Terry with all the despair you would expect from a brother who doesn't feel like he belongs and despite trying to do the right thing never quite gets it right. Between Linney and Ruffalo they make "You Can Count on Me" a really engaging movie because their characters are so interesting.
As well as Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo you also have the likes of Matthew Broderick as the anally retentive boss Brian, a role which in some ways is similar to one he played in the movie "Election". Plus there is Rory Culkin, who although sounds and acts very much in the same manner as his brother Macaulay does not come over as a precocious brat and so adds to the interest of the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "You Can Count on Me" is not your ordinary movie, it flits from being commercial to indie in a breath, from pacey to slow in a second but even so it is surprisingly entertaining. There is enough mainstream elements to appeal to those looking for a commercial movie but enough original moments to make it feel different. Well worth a watch.