09/22/2012 08:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

REVIEW: 'You Can Count On Me'


You can count on the adorable kid. Really, those cheeks could win a cuteness award. But, in all seriousness, You Can Count On Me has more depth than the cutesy maxim of a title.

When a brother (Mark Ruffalo) returns home to snag some cash from his sister (Laura Linney), a sporadic visit turns into an extended stay. While Terry (Ruffalo), upon introduction, appears unkempt, lonely and lost in the grand scheme of things, you quickly realize that Sammy (Linney) is no better off. Raising her son (Rory Culkin) as a single-mom in the same hick town she grew up in, it is evident that Sammy feels an obligation to stay close to the place where her parents lost their lives on that fateful day. She might have a stable job, unlike her brother, but between a fling with her boss (a married man) and a haphazard relationship with another man, Sammy realizes that she feels sorry for the both of them and doesn't care enough about herself to change her routine.

What I like about this film is that it's not your classic family bonding makes all problems fade beneath the surface plotline. It's a refreshing look at a dysfunctional family and how interaction divulges identity struggle and personal conflict. When it comes time for Terry to leave, it's hard to make either the argument that he's the closest thing to a father figure Rudy (Culkin) has, or the argument that he's too disorganized in his own life to try to guide that of a child. His character lies somewhere in between. He's the one person who sticks it straight; he tells Rudy how life really works without sugar-coating anything. A kid needs to learn how to be tough, and that starts with learning the reality of his situation. However, Terry's master-plan to show Rudy the kind of man his father really is is a radical endeavor that could have only ended in utter failure. It's a plan that, in the end, passes over the child's head as Rudy truly believes that his father meant "he's no son of mine" literally.

I don't think I've ever really thought about how much a good soundtrack shapes a film until I watched this one. Personally, I love Johann Sebastian Bach's work; however, an independent film about family conflict and bonding is not the right match. And, it's not funny or amusing listening to "The Other Woman" playing in the background when Sammy is driving to meet her married lover -- it's just incredibly irritating. They couldn't think of anything else?

As a whole, You Can Count On Me is a nice watch. Don't count on it to be a high-class film, but, if you're like me and take 10 minutes scrolling through Netflix to settle on a film, pick this one. You can count on it... (sorry I had to say it at least once).