Gentle story slow to start, reluctant to end
Review of You Can Count on Meá(2000) movie, by Stefan Stenudd
During far too many minutes, it's simply hard to care, since everything is just too ordinary. It goes on being very ordinary, but about an hour into the film, there is at least some twist to it. Some good moments, though rare. The best one is when Sammy, the female lead, drives her car home after a secret rendez-vous with an unlikely lover, and bursts into sudden laughter. A wonderful laughter, saying such a lot.
There are other scenes, where silence speaks fluently, through very skilled acting and a good sense of timing. There are some good actors in it. Matthew Broderick is very precise as a slightly repulsive boss worthy of a Freudian analysis, and still neither a monster nor a parody. Laura Linney also balances on the border between sympathetic and neurotic. And the boy, the younger Culcin, again makes me marvel at the Hollywood ability to make child actors perform so splendidly. I don't know how they do it, I'm not even sure I want to know.
The weak one is Mark Ruffalo, playing the slightly Bohemian brother, but staying far too safely in the Prince Charming spectrum, whatever he does. It's really disturbing. If he could, at all, he should have allowed his character to be less agreeable, less safe. That was what the story seemed to call for.
Well, the story is not that strong, either. It's pretty much a scramble of the usual drama cliches. Only at short moments does it stand out, like in how the Ruffalo character deals with the little boy's fantasy image of his absent father, or in the dialogue where the local priest tries to give him some spiritual guidance. That's a masterly dialogue, where both are allowed to say wise and reasonable things. An argument on such a high level, though brief, that there can be no winner of it.
Otherwise, the film makes little impact. And the far too slow ending - naah, it is just a way of surrendering to the lack of a really good story.
9 January 2003
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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.