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You Can Count on Me

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You Can Count on Me
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKenneth Lonergan
Written byKenneth Lonergan
Produced by
CinematographyStephen Kazmierski
Edited byAnne McCabe
Music byLesley Barber
Distributed byParamount Classics
Release dates
  • January 21, 2000 (2000-01-21) (Sundance)
  • December 22, 2000 (2000-12-22) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.2 million[citation needed]
Box office$11.2 million[1]

You Can Count on Me is a 2000 American drama film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan in his feature directorial debut. Starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, and Matthew Broderick, the film follows a single mother living in a small Catskill Mountains town, and her complicated relationships with family and friends.

You Can Count on Me premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2000, where it tied with Girlfight for the Grand Jury Prize, and Lonergan won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. It was theatrically released on December 22, 2000 to widespread acclaim, with particular praise for Linney's performance.[2] At the 73rd Academy Awards, Linney was nominated for Best Actress and Lonergan was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.


As children, Sammy and Terry Prescott lost their parents to a car crash. 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 jail 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 trailer park in a nearby town. Confronted by his past, Rudy Sr. denies he is Rudy's father and starts 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 paths in life.


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.[3][4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

Some outdoor scenes, most notably the fishing trip, were filmed in Phoenicia, New York.[6] 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.


On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 95% based on 105 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "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] At Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, 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 Our 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]


Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[13] Best Actress Laura Linney Nominated
Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
American Film Institute Awards[14] Top 10 Movies of the Year Won
American Film Institute Fest[15] New Directions Award Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Best New Writer Won
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Actress in a Leadinging Role Laura Linney Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Bodil Awards Best American Film Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards[16] Best Actor Mark Ruffalo 3rd Place
Best Actress Laura Linney 2nd Place
Best New Filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan Won
British Film Institute Awards Sutherland Trophy Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[17] Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Actress Laura Linney Nominated
Best Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Chlotrudis Awards[18] Best Actor Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Actress Laura Linney Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards[19] Best Picture Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Laura Linney Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Top 10 Films 10th Place
Best Film Nominated
Best Actress Laura Linney Won
Best Supporting Actor Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Russell Smith Award Kenneth Lonergan Won
Golden Globe Awards[20] Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Laura Linney Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards[21] Breakthrough Director (Open Palm Award) Nominated
Humanitas Prize[22] Feature Film Won
Independent Spirit Awards[23] Best First Feature Won
Best Male Lead Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Female Lead Laura Linney Nominated
Best Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Won
Best Debut Performance Rory Culkin Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[24] Best Actress Laura Linney Runner-up
Best Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Won
New Generation Award Mark Ruffalo Won
Montreal World Film Festival Grand Prix des Amériques Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention Won
Best Actor Mark Ruffalo Won
National Board of Review Awards[25] Top Ten Films 4th Place
Special Filmmaking Achievement Kenneth Lonergan Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards[26] Best Actor Mark Ruffalo 2nd Place
Best Actress Laura Linney Won
Best Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[27] Best Actress Laura Linney Won
Best Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Won
Online Film & Television Association Awards[28] Best Actress Laura Linney Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Best First Feature Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards[29] Best Actress Laura Linney Nominated
Best Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Laura Linney Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Best Performance by a Youth in a Leading or Supporting Role Rory Culkin Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Actor Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Actress Laura Linney Won[a]
Satellite Awards[30] Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards[31] Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Laura Linney Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards[32] Best Picture 5th Place
Best Actor Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Actress Laura Linney Nominated
Stockholm International Film Festival Bronze Horse (Best Film) Kenneth Lonergan Nominated
Sundance Film Festival[33] Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Won[b]
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards[34] Best Male Performance Mark Ruffalo Runner-up
Best Female Performance Laura Linney Won
Best Screenplay Kenneth Lonergan Won
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards[35] Best Actor Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Actress Laura Linney Won
Writers Guild of America Awards[36] Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Kenneth Lonergan Won
Young Artist Awards[37] Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor Rory Culkin Won

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and VHS from Paramount Home Entertainment on June 26, 2001.[38] It comes with commentary from director–writer Lonergan, cast and crew interviews, plus the theatrical trailer.[38]


  1. ^ Tied with Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich.
  2. ^ Tied with Karyn Kusama for Girlfight.


  1. ^ "You Can Count on Me (2000)". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ Communications, Emmis (December 2000). Los Angeles Magazine. Emmis Communications.
  3. ^ You Can Count on Me – DVD Extras: Cast Interviews
  4. ^ Posters for Margaretville's July 4 "Field Days" can be seen in shop windows.
  5. ^ "150 Years...and Counting: NBT Bank" (PDF). p. 43. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-10-09.
  6. ^ a b You Can Count on Me – DVD Extras: Director Commentary
  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 2022-03-24.
  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". . rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
  12. ^ "The 21st century's 100 greatest films: Who voted?". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  13. ^ "The 73rd Academy Awards (2001) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  14. ^ "AFI Awards 2000". Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  15. ^ "2000 AFI Fest". Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  16. ^ "BSFC Winners: 2000s". Boston Society of Film Critics. 27 July 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  17. ^ "1988-2013 Award Winner Archives". Chicago Film Critics Association. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  18. ^ "7th Annual Chlotrudis Awards". Chlotrudis Society for Independent Films. Retrieved April 23, 2022.
  19. ^ "The BFCA Critics' Choice Awards :: 2000". Bfca.org. Archived from the original on February 25, 2011. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  20. ^ "You Can Count on Me – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  21. ^ "Past Recipients". Gotham Awards. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
  22. ^ "Past Winners & Nominees". Humanitas Prize. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  23. ^ "36 Years of Nominees and Winners" (PDF). Independent Spirit Awards. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
  24. ^ "The 26th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  25. ^ "2000 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  26. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. 19 December 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  27. ^ "2000 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  28. ^ "5th Annual Film Awards (2000)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  29. ^ "2000 Awards (4th Annual)". Online Film Critics Society. 3 January 2012. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
  30. ^ "International Press Academy website – 2001 5th Annual SATELLITE Awards". Archived from the original on 1 February 2008.
  31. ^ "The 7th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Archived from the original on November 1, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  32. ^ "2000 SEFA Awards". sefca.net. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  33. ^ "2000 Sundance Film Festival". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
  34. ^ "TFCA Awards 2000". torontofilmcritics.com. Archived from the original on 2011-10-06.
  35. ^ "1st Annual Award Winners". Vancouver Film Critics Circle. February 2001. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  36. ^ "Writers Guild Awards Winners". WGA. 2010. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  37. ^ "22nd Annual Young Artist Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Archived from the original on 2014-09-28. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  38. ^ a b Tribbey, Ralph (March 30, 2001). "Paramount Delivers 'Last Dance' on DVD". hive4media.com. Archived from the original on April 20, 2001. Retrieved September 11, 2019.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
tied with Girlfight
Succeeded by