sh’le that worked so well within the ghoststoryrncon’entions oiThe Sixth Sense. Appliedrnto superhero antics, this approachrncan’t help but seeni leadenly prctenhous.rnhi an early scene, Elijah refuses to sell anrnoriginal hand-drawn portrait of a superlierornto a customer who intends to give itrnto his ten-year-old as a gift. With offendedrndignit)’, he angrily points out that, althoughrnsuch drawings are made to berntranslated into the cheaply colored panelsrnof comic books, they themselves arernnevertheless genuine works of art. Atrnfirst, Shvamalan seems to be using the incidentrnto reveal Elijah’s obsessi e nature.rnOn reflection, however, I suspect thernepisode is his way of cordoning off hisrnfilm from other superhero moies. Batman,rnwe are to understand, is a ‘ulgarrnlive-action cartoon, while his film is genuinernart. Such highmindedness is thernflaw of a young man, and I hope the 30-rnvear-old Shvamalan will outgrow it.rnThere’s nothing more aesthetically fatal.rnIf Unbreakable reveals Shyamalan’srncallowness, it also displays his ambifion.rnHow man’ other directors would dare torntake on the issues he has? On theserngromids alone, his film is worth viewing,rndespite its faults. Erankly, I’m hoping it’srna commercial success. He deserves morernturns at bat, but he may not get them ifrnthis film doesn’t make money. Ideally, itrnwill turn a modest profit, just enough tornencourage his backers to fund anotherrnproject on a smaller budget. Gien thernexcesses on display in Unbreakable, I suspectrnhe may need the discipline of a leanrnbudget, which will force him to forgornspecial effects and rely on his abilit)- tornuse the medium’s own resources inventively.rnAnd knowing his script will appearrnbefore the world undisguised bv big-budgetrnfrills, he’ll be mofivated to take morernpains with his writing.rnThe low-budget independent film YournCan Count on Me proves the point. LikernUnbreakable, it also begins v’ith a fatal accident;rnthis one, however, leads to a farrnmore compelling drama, without a specialrneffect in sight. The film opens with arnhusband and wife driing home at night.rnSuddenly, their car swerves and collidesrnwith a truck, instantly orphaning theirrntwo young children. The film thenrnjumps ahead 18 ‘ears to pick up tlie livesrnof the siblings as voung adults.rnBoth have grown up profoundlyrnmarked by tlieir loss, but like orphans evenw’here,rnthcv are unwilling or unable torntalk about it, even to each ofiier. Their silencernserves to reveal how profoimdlyrntheir parents’ deaths have haunted themrneer)’ day of their lives. It’s as though theyrnhave been knocked permanenth’ off balance,rnperpetually unable to find the floorrnbeneath their feet—a condifion that hasrnled them to make one ill-advised choicernafter another.rnNow in her early 30’s, Samnw (LaurarnLinney), the sister, has chosen an outwardlyrnconentional life. She lives in herrnparents’ house and works in the localrnbank in a small New York village. Rut allrnis not well. Her husband has left her, andrnshe is rearing their eight-year-old son onrnher own. Her brother Tern- (Mark Ruffalo),rnnow in his late 20’s, has become arndrifter, picking up day labor from /Vlaskarnto Florida and getting himself arrested forrnbrawling in bars. He doesn’t help hisrncase by smoking pot regularly and veggingrnout whenever there’s a television tornwatch.rnDespite their evident differences,rnthese siblings are much more alike inrntheir pain and uncertaint)- than either realizes.rnSammy strives for order and respectabilityrnbut carries on in quite a disorderlyrn—not to say disreputable —fashion.rnAlthough she has an intimaternrelationsliip with Bob (jon Tenney), «’hornloves and wants to marry her, she starts anrnaffair with her new boss, Brian (MatthewrnBroderick), an insecure marfinet with arner’ pregnant wife. Realizing her behaviorrnis less than appropriate, she isits herrnminister, Ron (played with marvelouslyrncomic sobriety by writer-director KenrnLonergan). What, she wants to know, isrnthe Church’s current position on fornicationrnand adultery? He answers with measuredrnhesitance: “Well, it’s a sin; but werndon’t focus on that aspect of it.” He thenrnasks about the “context” of her beha ior,rnbut she tells him she would prefer hernchasfise her. Ron refuses to bite. Seeingrnno alternatie, she explains what promptsrnher liaisons with the h o fellows. “I feelrnsorry for them; isn’t that ridiciflous?” Yes,rnit is; but it also makes sense in light of anrnearlier monrent. Feeling restless onernevening, she had called Bob. When hernanswered, she asked —without introducingrnherself—”What are you wearing?”rn.Although she meant the question to bernseducfive. Bob heard it quite differenflv.rnAfter a perplexed pause, he x’cnturedrn”Mom?” This is more than a joke; it revealsrnSammy’s need to mother men, e.speeialK’rnsufferers and losers. Her ownrnloss has left her preternaturall}- alert tornpain in others, and she feels compelled tornremedy it in any way she can.rnThis is why she is so disappointed withrnTerry when he comes home from hisrnwanderings. After she’s spent dasrnpreparing for his return—cleaning, cooking,rnand reminiscing —he rejects herrnmothering. He vould prefer cash instead.rnHe’s gotten a girl pregnant and needs torn”fix” the situation. As we watch him reluctandyrnreveal this, we shrink from thernspectacle of Sammy’s discomfiture. .srnthings turn out, however, Terr’ does submitrnto a good deal of mothering after all.rnIn his absence, his girlfriend attempts suicide,rnand her ftrther makes it forcefullyrnclear that he’s no longer welcome. AtrnSammy’s insistence, he agrees to movernback into their parents’ home with her untilrnhe can regain his composure.rnAt this point, we would expect a halfdozenrnemotional showdowns followed byrna cleansing resolution of lifelong tensions,rnbut this is not Lonergan’s waw Instead,rnhe has chosen to show these peoplernin all their ordinariness, includingrntheir confusion and inarticulateness.rnThey lack the heroic force for moldbreakingrncatharsis. What they do hae isrnthe myster)’ of their love for one another,rnhowever inexpressible and thwarted itrnma- be.rnLonergan’s film features fine performancesrnby all, especially Linney, Ruffalo,rnand Tenne’. With an unforced, alltoo-rnbelievable narrative, he poignanth’rnrenhnds us of life’s remorseless consequences,rncrnLooking forrna good film?rnCheck outrnGeorgernMcCartney’srnreviews fromrnour back issuesrnonline atrnvvww.chroniclcsmagazinc.orgrn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn