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copyright ©1999-2001

flick pick | You Can Count on Me 2000
Directed + written by: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, Matthew Broderick, Joe Tenney
Language: English
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The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: / 5 

Plot synopsis When their parents die in a tragic car accident, young Sami and her little brother Terry are left alone to take care of each other. Years later, Terri’s long since taken off in search of more excitement, but single mom Sami lives with her 8-year old son, Rudy, in that same small upstate New York town where she and Terri grew up. Between a boring job as a loan officer at the town bank, a new boss who can’t seem to get off her case, an on-again, off-again boyfriend she’s not even sure she wants to be with anymore, and the pressures of trying to be a good mom to her son through it all, Sami’s life is full of headaches. So when she gets a letter from Terry saying that he’s coming back into town for a visit – after another of his characteristically long, inexplicable silences – Sami’s thrilled. She’s missed her charming, drifter of a brother immensely, and besides, she thinks it’ll be good for Rudy, who’s a great kid, but lately has been asking far too many questions about his no-good dad, who he’s never met. Then Terri actually arrives, and Sami finds herself having to cope with both the good and the bad of the realities of sharing a house with her very fun, very charming, but extremely irresponsible little brother.

Review There’s a scene near the beginning of the movie where Sami and Terry have sat down for lunch in an elegantly quaint little local eatery, their first chance to talk after what’s apparently been a long separation for the two siblings. Sami’s all big smiles and eagerness, and Terry can barely sit still enough to mutter a nonsensical reply to her well-meaning, but completely superficial, chit-chatty questions . Both are unbearably awkward, trying their hardest to do what siblings are supposed to do when they get together, to say what they’re supposed to say, to be like nice, normal, people are theoretically supposed to be. That moment when Terri tells Sami he’s been in jail, and she realizes that he’s just here in town to ask for money, you see her face just crumble. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, and the immediate change in both Terri’s and Sami’s demeanor towards other once they just drop the nicey-nicey facades and let out their frustrations makes you swallow your breath in your stomach, its honesty like a slap in the face. Perfectly written dialogue, astoundingly delivered, with the exact right facial expressions and body language to make the characters and their relationship completely convincing – these are the things that make that scene work. And in scene after scene, the great writing and beautifully nuanced performances from both Linney and Ruffalo continue. There’s no plot to speak of, particularly, and that’s okay; this isn’t a movie about what happens, but about what is. You Can Count on Me is one of the best movies about sibling relationships I’ve ever seen. —reviewed by Y. Sun   

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