Classic Intel: You Can Count On Me - DVD Review

'Margaret was an angry, slightly detached film about an angry, slightly detached character, this is much warmer of purpose and heart'

If, like me, You Can Count On Me arrived on your rental list by way of first discovering the compelling Margaret then be rest assured that this is indeed more of the same. Two films in to his film-making career and it is clear: playwright Kenneth Lonergan has his own syntax. You Can Count On Me may not be groundbreaking of plot, but of delivery and script it is unlike anything you have seen, save the aforementioned Margaret. On Letterboxd, there's a review which describes Lonergan as 'the Bob Dylan of film'. That is entirely accurate and I wish I had come up with it.

More so than Margaret the thing that really stands out about You Can Count On Me though is the performances. Where Lonergan has been recognised as a writer (this was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2001), there is evidence here of his strong direction and ability to tease a performance from his charges. Mark Ruffalo is normally very good but here he is a shambling titan, Marlon Brando-esque is his bursts of reaction and quiet moments of introspection. Laura Linney, herself nominated for Best Actress in the same year, is perfectly warm and human, two things Lonergan clearly values. A scene after the half way mark, of Sammy (Linney) alone in her car is both perfect and laugh out loud hilarious.

That scene speaks to the fact that, where Margaret was an angry, slightly detached film about an angry, slightly detached character, this is much warmer of purpose and heart. The relationships that develop as Terry (Ruffalo) returns to his hometown are altogether hugely involving and normally extremely funny. There is, of course, both schmaltz and negativity involved in that equation too, but, for the most part, this is a lovely narrative about partial redemption and getting over very human struggles. In that way it is perhaps less ambitious than Margaret (it is certainly less open to interpretation) but sacrificing that for a film this harmonious is a price worth paying.

If there is a problem beyond that then Lonergan's first film is perhaps a little too cookie cutter of elements. Terry keeps on getting things wrong, like any good driver of a plot, whilst Rudy (Rory Culkin) never seems to react to what goes on around him in a way that would take any of the adults too far off their arcs. The film is so sweet that you'll hardly notice, but you can see how Lonergan's character work has developed in his second film, not that it doesn't make this one well worth your time.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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