Subhash K Jha reviews I Know This Much Is True

Review of I Know This Much Is True:  Mark Ruffalo Stuns In A Double Role

I Know This Much Is True (HBO, miniseries)

Starring Mark Ruffalo,Melissa Leo,John Procaccino,Rob Huebel,Juliette Lewis,Kathryn Hahn, Rosie O’Donnell, Archie Punjabi

Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Rating: ** ½

Frankly I got into this 8-hour 8-episode treatise on twinned trauma for Mark Ruffalo who not plays the real-life twins, one of whom happens to be a paranoid schizophrenic but also co-produces this commendable but dark and depressing real-life drama.

Ruffalo’s commitment to playing the real-life twins Dominick and Thomas Birdsey is so supremely complete,I wondered why we are so quick to congratulate Bollywood actors for “daring” to play gay or for putting on weight to look older? Ruffalo plays the troubled twin with oodles of extra weight. That’s not prosthetics. The series was actually shot in two separate time frames to accommodate the two characters in their different weight zones.

It is an impressive achievement but not one punctuated with self-congratulations. Ruffalo gives plenty of space to other actors to come forward in the plot and make space. The first episode has a deeply stirring performance by Melissa Leo as Twins’ dying mother. Ms Leo looks brutally authentic as dying a woman.

In fact the brutal strain runs across the series. The mood is constantly dark. The director spares us none of the agony faced by Dominick as the healthy twin. It is as though Dominick is being for being mentally stable, and we get punished along with the home. Dominick’s relentless suffering, which ranges from dealing with his brother’s hand-chopping protest against war, to falling off the roof of a house while painting the windows, gets too much to handle after a point.

And I found myself being distanced from the tireless tiring trauma. There is not a moment of respite from pain, not even when Dominick shares an evening with an academician-translator(Juliette Lewis, brilliant) who turn out to be fairly psychotic in her behaviour.

Somewhere in this slushy journey through the darkness, the storytelling goes into an uninvolving flashback about the twins’ mother’s Italian ancestry. That’s where this brave but exhausting series lost me. There is only this much one can take for Ruffalo’s sake.

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