Watching: Two Films by Kenneth Lonergan

Warmth and wit amid tragedy.

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re suggesting two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations. We think the movies will pair well — with each other and with you.


Your weekly double feature: Kenneth Lonergan

From left, Sarah Steele, Anna Paquin and Matthew Broderick in a scene from “Margaret.”Myles Aronowitz/Fox Searchlight Pictures

‘You Can Count On Me’ and ‘Margaret’

The playwright and filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan has directed only three films in 20 years, but all of them are precisely rendered and emotionally devastating, each about how tragedy alters the trajectory of its characters’ lives. And yet there’s a warmth and wit to Lonergan’s work that makes it palatable, even as he strikes at the heart.


Now streaming on HBO Max, Lonergan’s debut feature, “You Can Count on Me” (2000), is about the special relationship between adult siblings who lost both of their parents to a car accident as children. When Terry (Mark Ruffalo), a chronic screw-up, comes to visit his sister, Sammy (Laura Linney), a single mother who still lives in their old home in the Catskills, her excitement dissipates after learning that he spent three months in jail and is looking for a loan. Over an extended stay, their flaws and resentments are brought out into the open, but the intensity of their bond makes the deepest impression, with Linney’s high-strung performance pinging beautifully off Ruffalo’s wounded one.

It took years of editing and legal wrangling for Lonergan’s follow-up, “Margaret” (2011), to arrive to the screen at a contractually obligated 150 minutes. After a brief theatrical run, however, critics rallied to its defense, praising the complexity and scope of a moral drama about a 17-year-old (Anna Paquin) who witnesses (and partly instigates) a bus accident. HBO Max currently has both the 150-minute cut and the 186-minute director’s cut, which gives the drama a fuller and more operatic quality. (The longer version is listed under “Extras.”) SCOTT TOBIAS

Stream “You Can Count on Me” on HBO Max. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Stream the theatrical and extended cut of “Margaret” on HBO Max. Rent the theatrical cut on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube. Rent the extended cut on Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.



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