You Can Count on Me

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
You Can Count on Me Movie Poster Image
Sweet family drama has profanity and mature themes.
  • R
  • 2000
  • 111 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Family is an important anchor throughout life; even as you go out and explore the world, it helps to know there's someone back home rooting for you. Families need to trust and have faith in one another. There are different ways of being able to depend on someone besides just being predictable and reliable.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sammy is very stable and anchored, but wants a very simple moral compass to keep herself on the right path; she has to struggle on her own when she discovers that not even her pastor can offer that. Terry's not looking for anything out of life but is drifting aimlessly, just trying to get on with it. Both siblings make mistakes but learn from them and try to do the right thing.


A fistfight with punches thrown, a child accidentally knocked over, bloody mouths shown afterward, police called, and one of the fighters is handcuffed and taken to jail. Blood and bloody bandages briefly shown from accidental cut to the leg. A fatal car crash shows the victims in the seconds before the crash and a crashing sound is heard. The next sequence shows two kids crying at a funeral service for their parents. Some verbal hostility in the workplace as a new boss clashes with one of his employees, played mostly for comedy.


One scene of simulated sex under covers with female nudity from behind from the waist up. Several scenes of passionate kissing, a few of adults lying in bed under covers implying nudity and that sex has just taken place. A woman has an affair with a married man. A woman in bra and underwear, apparently getting dressed, crosses the screen a couple of times.


"F--k," "f--king," "s--t," and "bulls--t" frequently. "Ass," "a--hole," "prick," "crap," "you suck," and "goddamn" several times each.


Lots of recognizable food and beverage containers, including bottles of beer, with labels turned slightly away or slightly out of focus. Neon beer signs visible in a bar. A pack of Camel cigarettes on a table is partly obscured. Subaru Outback mentioned in description to police.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main characters frequently smoke, with one sarcastic mention to a child that it's bad for you. A man smokes what looks like the remnant of a joint. A man invites a woman to smoke pot, they go out on the porch, and he smokes a joint. A man mentions he could use a tranquilizer. Several scenes take place in a bar, one includes bringing a child in to hustle pool. Adults drink beer and wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that You Can Count on Me is an oddly sweet family drama with lots of strong language ("f--k" and "s--t" are frequent), main characters who smoke cigarettes and pot, and a sex scene that doesn't show sensitive body parts but shows a woman's bare back along with explicit movement under covers. Adults frequently have wine or beer and several scenes take place in a bar. There's a fistfight that shows punches and bloody mouths afterward, as well as the consequence of being taken to jail. The overall takeaway is positive about how family members are anchors for one another throughout life, how there are different ways of counting on someone, and about accepting family members as they are. There's also a lot of food for thought about the effects of too much or too little parenting. Teen appeal is probably limited because of the mature themes and characters, but for those who have siblings it can be a good starting point for thinking about what their relationships with each other will be like when they're adults.

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What's the story?

In YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, Sammy (Laura Linney) is thrilled when she learns that her younger brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) is coming back home for a visit. The siblings were orphaned at a young age, and have always leaned on each other, even though they're as different as night and day. Terry decides to extend his visit and get to know Sammy's son, Rudy (Rory Culkin), which is a big help to Sammy as she's coming under a lot of pressure from her new boss (Matthew Broderick). Both Terry and Sammy drive each other crazy, and both make mistakes. Are the ties that bind them strong enough to hold when things go wrong?

Is it any good?

It's refreshing to see two such talented actors (Linney and Ruffalo) in an engaging story about the kind of love Hollywood often overlooks, although it's no less powerful than romantic love. You Can Count on Me explores how family bonds change -- and don't change -- as life goes on and siblings become adults. Mature teens who can handle the strong language and mature themes may enjoy the chance to think about the future of their own family relationships or people they can always count on.

The strong script is well structured, moves at a natural pace, and quietly holds the viewer's attention as the story unfolds. The characters are well developed and fully realized by the strong cast. Both the comedy and drama arise naturally without feeling forced or contrived. Families with mature teens will enjoy watching, and have a lot to think about family dynamics and the ties that bind.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the strong language in You Can Count on Me. How much is OK in movies? Is it realistic, and does it matter if it is?

  • If you have brothers or sisters, can you count on them? Do you think you'll be able to when you're adults? If you don't have siblings, who can you count on the way Sammy and Terry count on each other?

  • Is Terry a good role model for his nephew Rudy? Why, or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family dramas

Themes & Topics

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