Lonergan's project, in both You Can Count on Me and Margaret, is to crystallize the exact moment at which our emotions run aground on the shoals of their expression, made somehow smaller, shabbier, by the very act of admitting them.
"I’ve gotten better at letting it go, but something like that scene sort of stays with you for a bit. It’s hard to shake that off after the work is done. It definitely involved a really long hot shower and maybe a bath and a martini or something."
To watch Margaret is to spend three hours in the nearly uninterrupted company of a caustic, bright, naive, and passionate 17-year-old girl as she navigates a difficult passage of her life.
"Kenny has such a deep understanding of his characters, and also a deep understanding of human behavior. The way his characters relate to each other just strikes me as completely real and relatable, in a way I find profound in its simplicity."
In Margaret, Lonergan assembles a titanic analogy between the pain of a nation and one girl’s post-traumatic chaos, arriving at the same gray-shaded ambiguity and uncertainty.
"I think it’s a movie to really be proud of, no matter how difficult it was to make. I’m glad that Kenny survived it, really, and that everyone will gradually come to watch Margaret eventually. I think it’s something that will last."
The paltriness of language, or at least its insufficiency, is an unusual subject for a film written and directed by a playwright as verbally dexterous as Lonergan, but it enables a startling feat of expression.
"It’s basically a coming of age story, but it appeals to me enormously because Kenny manages to both embrace the wonderfulness and beauty of adolescence and the shaping of an adult—how glorious it is, and what a great triumph it is for all of us that anybody survives their childhood or their adolescence."