Directed by Ken Lonergan; 2000. Rated R for language, some drug use, and a scene of sexuality.

Ken Lonergan's You Can Count on Me is one of those remarkable films whose simplicity is so eventful, so full of truth that all you can be is grateful for having experienced it. We're introduced to Sammy Prescott, a single mother living with her eight-year-old son, Rudy. A loving mother, a model citizen, and, appropriately, the local bank's trustworthy loan officer, Sammy seems perfectly satisfied with her predictable life.

The only other member of Sammy's family is her younger brother Terry, who returns home after spending a few months in jail. Terry is a nomadic, yet likeable freeloader. He is everything his sister is not -- irresponsible, irreverent, and unreliable. Sammy, as the consummate churchgoer, feels concerned about her brother's moral health. Since their parents' tragic death, she has taken it upon herself to provide Terry with some semblance of moral stability. Sammy orchestrates an awkward counseling session with the local pastor, but finds herself confronted with questions that pervade the entire film.

Terry's presence in Sammy's life marks the gradual unraveling of Sammy's safe and orderly world. First and quite symbolically, Terry dismantles the plumbing in a vain attempt to repair it, turning the usually pristine house into a obstacle course. Then Sammy's boyfriend Bob asks her to marry him. She realizes she can't (or won't). Shortly thereafter, she finds herself in the arms of Brian, her rules-obsessed, married supervisor. Then, with Rudy under his care, Terry makes an enormous error in judgment that endangers the boy not only physically, but also emotionally.

Sammy has reached her wit's end. On the periphery are Bob and Brian. Does she truly love either man? Closer to her heart are her son and her brother. Can she afford to have Terry around, undermining her parental goals? And then there are her private struggles. Gifted actress Laura Linney portrays Sammy as a real person, someone whose heartfelt responses to circumstances often frustrate her good intentions.

In the film's poignant final moments, Sammy and Terry sit on a bench, much as they did in the film's opening, attending their parents' funeral. Tears roll down Sammy's cheeks. Terry is the prodigal brother once again, and she is the faithful sister. Terry struggles to comfort her: "No matter where I go, I know you're here at home rooting for me . . . . just remember what we've always said since we were kids."

What does it mean to count on someone else, to make yourself available? In our utterly human world, to be counted upon can be both a blessing and a curse. Terry seems destined to get into trouble, while Sammy is incurably overprotective. Nonetheless, they love each other and are available to each other for support, in all its imperfect manifestations.

The truth is, we don't know how many people count on us. Think of the lives you touch in a single day -- your spouse, your child, your supervisor, your favorite clerk at the convenience store. in each moment, we have the chance to show the light of Christ in ways that can break through all our predictable patterns and offer new hope.

The underlying message of this film begins in its simple title and ends in the beauty of those same words. Remarkably, those words are never uttered in the film. Sammy and Terry communicate silently the words they already know are true.

TY POWERS enjoys all types of films, especially those that leave him thinking long after the credits roll. His all-time favorites include Schindler's List, The Color of Paradise, and Cinema Paradiso. Ty works at a publishing house in Nashville, TN, where be lives with his wife, Monica.

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