You Can Count On Me

You Can Count On Me is a 2000 American drama film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, and Matthew Broderick. It tells the story of Sammy, a single mother living in a small Catskill Mountains town, and her complicated relationships with family and friends.

You Can Count On Me
Theatrical film poster
Directed byKenneth Lonergan
Produced by
Written byKenneth Lonergan
Music byLesley Barber
CinematographyStephen Kazmierski
Edited byAnne McCabe
Distributed byParamount Classics
Release date
  • November 10, 2000 (2000-11-10)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.2 million
Box office$11 million[1]

The film and its performances received highly positive reviews among critics, and dozens of award nominations and awards at film festivals, and during awards season, including two Oscar nominations.


As children, Sammy and Terry Prescott lose their parents to a car accident. Years later, Sammy, a single mother and lending officer at a bank, still lives in her childhood home in a village in the Catskill Mountains region of New York, while Terry has drifted around the country, scraping by and getting in and out of trouble.

After months of no communication with his sister, Terry and his girlfriend, Sheila, are desperate for money, so he comes to visit Sammy and her son, Rudy, who are excited about reuniting with him. Despite the disappointment of learning that he cut off contact because he was in prison for three months, Sammy lends him the money, which he mails back to Sheila. After Sheila attempts suicide, he decides to extend his stay with Sammy, which she welcomes.

For a school writing assignment, Rudy imagines his father, who he has no memory of, as a fantastic hero. While Sammy has always given him vague yet negative descriptions of Rudy Sr., Terry is frank with him that Rudy Sr. is not a nice person though Rudy naively believes his father has changed. Sammy rekindles a sexual relationship with Bob, an old boyfriend, but is surprised when he proposes to her after a short time and says she needs time to consider it.

At the bank, the new manager, Brian, tries to make his mark with unusual demands about computer color schemes and daily timesheets. While co-worker Mabel works well with the changes, Sammy is upset when Brian requests that she make arrangements for someone else to pick up Rudy from the school bus rather than Sammy leaving work at random. After some minor arguments, they start having sex, despite Brian's wife being six months pregnant.

Terry grows close to Rudy during their time together. Yet he pushes the limits of Sammy's parental control, keeping Rudy out very late as the two play pool at a bar. She turns to Ron, her church minister, to counsel Terry about his outlook on life. While Terry resists his sister's advice, he and Rudy grow steadily closer. Realizing her own questionable decisions, Sammy turns down Bob's marriage proposal and breaks off her relationship with Brian.

After a day of fishing, Terry and Rudy decide to visit Rudy Sr. in a shack in a nearby village. Confronted by his past, Rudy Sr. reveals what terrible person he is, denying he is Rudy's father and starting a brawl with Terry. Rudy watches silently as Terry beats Rudy Sr. and gets arrested.

Sammy brings her brother and son home. When Rudy insists that Rudy Sr. is not his father, Sammy finally tells him the truth. Sammy asks Terry to move out, but admits how important he is to her and Rudy, suggesting he get his own place in town and get his life back on track. He scoffs at Sammy's idea and plans to go back to Alaska. While at first it appears the separation will be another heartache, they reconcile before Terry leaves, coming to terms with their respective lifestyles.


While listed in the main opening credits, Amy Ryan and Michael Countryman, playing Sammy and Terry's parents, appear for only a few seconds in the cold opening of the film, caught in the headlights of the truck that kills them.


The story takes place in the Catskill region of south east New York state, in the fictionalized communities of Scottsville and Auburn. While there is an actual Scottsville and Auburn, New York, they are over 200 miles (320 km) away, in the north west Great Lakes and Finger Lakes regions of the state, respectively. The film was primarily shot in and around Margaretville, New York, a village on the border of Catskill Park, in June 1999.[2][3]

While the bank exteriors were filmed at Margaretville's NBT bank, the interiors were filmed in an unrelated bank closer to New York City, since NBT considered interior filming a security risk.[4]

The scenes where Rudy Jr. walks home in the rain were filmed with the assistance of the Margaretville Fire Department, which used their trucks and hoses to create the rain.[5]

Some outdoor scenes, most notably the fishing trip, were filmed in Phoenicia, New York.[5] The Margaretville cemetery could not be seen from the road, so those scenes were shot at a cemetery 4 miles (6.4 km) outside the village, on Route 30.

Home media

The film was released on DVD and VHS on June 26, 2001.[6]It comes with commentary from director–writer Lonergan, cast and crew interviews, plus the theatrical trailer[6]


You Can Count On Me received highly positive reviews from critics. It has an approval rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 103 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1 out of 10. The website's critical consensus states, "You Can Count On Me may look like it belongs on the small screen, but the movie surprises with its simple yet affecting story. Beautifully acted and crafted, the movie will simply draw you in."[7] The film also has a score of 85 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 31 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[8]

Reviewer Stephen Holden described the film as "the perfectly pitched directorial debut of the playwright (This Is Your Youth) and screenwriter (Analyze This) Kenneth Lonergan. Because it arrives near the end of one of the most dismal film seasons in memory, this melancholy little gem of a movie, which won two major awards at the Sundance Film Festival, qualifies as one of the two or three finest American films released this year....You Can Count on Me is an exquisitely observed slice of upstate New York life that reminds us there are still plenty of American communities where the pace is more human than computer-driven. The movie dares to portray small-town middle-class life in America as somewhat drab and predictable. Without ever condescending to its characters, it trusts that the everyday problems of ordinary people, if portrayed with enough knowledge, empathy and insight, can be as compelling as the most bizarre screaming carnival on The Jerry Springer Show."[9]

David Edelstein called the film the "best American movie of the year", noting that "[w]hat the film is 'about' can't be summed up in a line: Its themes remain just out of reach, its major conflicts sadly unresolved. But Lonergan writes bottomless dialogue. When his people open their mouths, what comes out is never a definitive expression of character: It's an awkward compromise between how they feel and what they're able to say; or how they feel and what they think they should say; or how they feel and what will best conceal how they feel. The common term for this is "subtext," and You Can Count on Me has a subtext so powerful that it reaches out and pulls you under. Even when the surface is tranquil, you know in your guts what's at stake." Edelstein concludes "Lonergan doesn't yet know how to make the camera show us things that his dialogue doesn't, but when you write dialogue like he does, you can take your time to learn. Hell, he can take another 20 movies to learn."[10]

According to Roger Ebert, "Beyond and beneath, that is the rich human story of You Can Count on Me. I love the way Lonergan shows his characters in flow, pressed this way and that by emotional tides and practical considerations. This is not a movie about people solving things. This is a movie about people living day to day with their plans, fears and desires. It's rare to get a good movie about the touchy adult relationship of a sister and brother. Rarer still for the director to be more fascinated by the process than the outcome. This is one of the best movies of the year."[11]

In a 2016 BBC poll, You Can Count On Me was voted by four critics as one of the greatest films since 2000.[12]


You Can Count On Me was on the "Top 10 films" lists at the American Film Institute Awards, National Board of Review, Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards and the Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards.


  2. You Can Count On Me – DVD Extras: Cast Interviews
  3. Posters for Margaretville's July 4 "Field Days" can be seen in shop windows.
  4. "150 Years...and Counting: NBT Bank" (PDF). p. 43. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-10-09.
  5. You Can Count On Me – DVD Extras: Director Commentary
  6. Tribbey, Ralph (March 30, 2001). "Paramount Delivers 'Last Dance' on DVD". Archived from the original on April 20, 2001. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  7. "You Can Count on Me (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  8. "You Can Count on Me Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  9. Holden, Stephen (November 10, 2000). "A Dysfunctional Family With Wounds Exposed". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
  10. Edelstein, David (November 17, 2000). "The dialogue stars in You Can Count on Me". Slate. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
  11. Ebert, Roger (November 17, 2000). "You Can Count on Me". . Retrieved 2014-02-21.
  12. "The 21st century's 100 greatest films: Who voted?". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Three Seasons
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
tied with Girlfight
Succeeded by
The Believer
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