Set in a small town in upstate New York, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME looks at a brother and sister who grew up together as orphans but now face life with very different perspectives. Sammy (Laura Linney) works at the local bank. Most of her attention goes into raising her 8-year-old son, Rudy (Rory Culkin), and drifting in a tepid romance with Bob (Jon Tenney). The first disruption to her dutiful routine arrives in the form of new bank manager Brian (Matthew Broderick), intent on whipping his employees into shape. Then Sammy's wayward brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo) shows up after a long absence, and her happiness quickly turns sour when she realizes he has only come to ask for money--again. But with all the elements for a backwater soap opera in place, the story instead becomes a subtle portrait of good intentions and fractured relationships.
First-time director Ken Lonergan was already a noted Hollywood screenwriter (ANALYZE THIS), but he saved this screenplay for himself. Avoiding both big-budget maudlin and low-budget posturing, he steers YOU COUNT ON ME straight to the gut with an artful balance of pain and comedy. A good number of excellent performances, especially by Ruffalo as the screw-up Terry, turn the film into a remarkably honest and moving experience.