You know Mark Ruffalo. He’s the guy who works the counter of the local convenience store who recognizes you enough to say, “”Hey”” as you run out the door. He’s that old friend from high school who hung around after class smoking cigarettes with you and cracking adolescent jokes.
He’s also that cousin you have who lives somewhere on the West Coast and pops up at random family functions only to get a disapproving glance from your uptight aunt. And it’s Ruffalo’s ability to wear all of these familiar personalities at any given time that makes “”You Can Count On Me,”” the new film by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, so comfortable, warm, and memorable.The film revolves around Sammy (Laura Linney), a put-upon bank manager in a small New York town who fate has deemed must wear far too many hats. A single mom, Sammy juggles her eight-year-old son who is wise beyond his years (Rory Culkin), a serious boyfriend who’s itching for commitment, and a new boss (Matthew Broderick) with a decent heart that’s filled with clouded intentions. Sammy’s already chaotic world grinds to a halt when her brother Terry (Ruffalo) returns to their hometown for a visit, though his intentions, as well, are unclear. Sammy knows Terry has spent years in and out of trouble, and she instinctively reaches out to her brother. But what he truthfully needs, Sammy might not be able to give him.Lonergan’s script, a gentle probing of atypical family relationships, feels like a patchwork quilt of memories and sentiments conveyed through the actions of Linney and Ruffalo. The accomplished performers develop a bond that’s rarely seen on film but is so essential for a quiet study like this to work. And that’s to say nothing of supporting players Culkin and Broderick, both excellent for the mere reason that they’re able to steal your attention away from Linney and Ruffalo, if only for a minute or two. In true indie film fashion, the pace of “”Count”” creeps along, substituting emotion for action. But you’re immediately swept up because the characters appear so familiar to you. It’s mostly a treat, but it makes watching some of Terry’s misguided decisions play out, especially those made to impress his nephew, that much more painful and heartbreaking. Paramount has released “”Count”” on DVD, and has included the film’s trailer, exclusive interviews with the entire cast and crew, and a touching commentary by Lonergan. Aside from the requisite Kleenex box, I also recommend keeping you phone nearby while watching, as I’m sure the spectacular, gut-wrenching performances by Linney and Ruffalo will inspire you to call that cousin, high school friend or counter person, just to let them know you’re still there. Final Grade: A-