Laura Linney has been knocking on the door of stardom for some time now, having played Richard Gere's legal adversary in Primal Fear and Jim Carrey's fake spouse in The Truman Show. But she deserved that Golden Globe nomination for her performance in this heartfelt family drama, which is surely destined to be remembered as one of the best American indies of 2001.
But don't expect fireworks from Kenneth Lonergan's directorial debut. There are no explosions or costly effects, and the only car crash takes place off screen. What it offers instead is even more exciting: terrific acting, fine writing and powerful emotion converging in a truly graceful and moving drama.
Few films tackle the shifting sands and deep-seated tensions of sibling relations, and Lonergan deserves praise for the way he handles this relatively uncharted territory. He's aided by a pair of charismatic performances from Linney and Mark Ruffalo, who, despite bearing little or no resemblance to each other, intuitively portray the testy, edgy interaction between estranged siblings who are also, paradoxically, united by a trauma from their past.
They're not the only actors to emerge with credit, though. Fresh from his hilarious turn in Election, Matthew Broderick is on top form as the punctilious office manager with who the normally straight-laced Sammy has an extra marital fling. And Rory Culkin follows in the footsteps of brothers Macaulay and Kieran with a charming turn as Linney's troubled son.
Some might say that You Can Count On Me is nothing more than good television and, admittedly, there's a soap opera feel to its view of small-town life. But that doesn't detract from the subtlety of the script, the integrity of the acting or how Lonergan makes every moment count.
You can count on this slice-of-life snapshot for emotional honesty and sparkling one-liners. You can count on Linney providing one of the best performances you'll see all year. And you can count on there being plenty of tear-stained tissues on the floor of the cinema by the finale.