I Know This Much Is True Review: Mark Ruffalo's heartbreaking twin act is effective but tough pill to swallow

I Know This Much Is True Review: Mark Ruffalo's gut-wrenching performance as twins Dominick and Thomas Birdsey may very well bring the actor his first-ever Emmy as the miniseries is an effective but tough pill to swallow. Read the full review below.
Mark Ruffalo delivers the performance of a lifetime in I Know This Much Is True.Mark Ruffalo delivers the performance of a lifetime in I Know This Much Is True.
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I Know This Much Is True

I Know This Much Is True Cast: Mark Ruffalo

I Know This Much Is True Director: Derek Cianfrance

I Know This Much Is True Stars: 3.5/5

We're in the times of utter despair and grief as we learn to live with this pandemic known as the coronavirus. We're restricted to our homes with nothing to do but rely on entertainment to help distract us. I Know This Much Is True is anything but a pleasant watch and is more like a tough pill to swallow. However, that's not to take away from the charming essence that the miniseries brings forward when it comes to pain and dealing with loss. And at the center of it all is Mark Ruffalo, who acts his socks off!

For the ones not familiar with the Wally Lamb novel of the same name that the series is based on, I Know This Much Is True is the heartbreaking tale of twins Dominick and Thomas Birdsey (played by Mark Ruffalo). The two characters are polar opposites yet are bonded by the thread called family. The show begins in a gruesome manner when Thomas, who is battling schizophrenia chops off his hand at a library filled with students, as an act of sacrifice to stop the impending Gulf War. On the other hand, we have Dominick, who may seem normal from the surface, in comparison to his physically ill brother, but he too has deep-rooted psychological issues of his own which unravel as he tries to save his brother from the psychiatry ward he's been placed in, which feels more like a prison.

Dominick seeks help from two women; social worker Lisa Sheffer (Rosie O'Donnel) and Dr. Patel (Archie Panjabi) in his fight to save his brother, who show different, hidden aspects to Dominick's pain, which mostly stems from being unaware about who his father is. The answer may be found in the Italian transcription notes given to him by his mother (Melissa Leo), which were penned by his Sicilian grandfather, before her death. The story unfolds then on as we see Dominick reach his breaking point while trying to protect his sibling and dealing with his own mess that is his life in a nutshell.

Mark may very well be looking at his first-ever Emmy win as his heartbreaking twin act is stupendous, to say the least! At no point do we feel that the same person is playing the twins and that's a testament to what a natural, gifted star Ruffalo is. Inspite of the obvious physical differences with Dominick having a beard and a head full of curly locks and Thomas being on the chubbier, round-faced side, you see two distinctly different characters to sympathise over. Director Derek Cianfrance lays major emphasis on reeling the audience in with the extra close-up shots on Mark, to let his expressions fill the entire screen, even when another character is talking. In one particular scene, when a family member recuperates in the hospital, the usually distant Dominick lets his eyes do the talking as he tries to mend fences with them and let bygones be bygones. The entire sequence is shot through Mark's POV and is a tears-inducing moment to witness.

But, it's not just a one-man show in I Know This Much Is True as casting director Bonnie Timmerman has done a splendid job when it comes to filling in the supporting roles with incredible talent, who add life to what could have been melodramatic chaos. Notably, it's Juliette Lewis as Nedra Frank, the eccentric translator in charge of translating Dominick's grandfather's transcripts and Rob Huebel as Leo, Dominick's best friend who is a car salesman by day and struggling actor by night, who are the genuine surprise elements in the cast and provide the necessary laughter filter in the drama.

Besides John Procaccino's balancing act between the bad guy and a nice guy as Dominick's stepfather Ray Birdsey, it's the women who provide the foundation of empathy to the drama. Whether it be Rosie and Archie with their headstrong yet sympathetic character arcs or even Melissa and Kathryn Hahn, as Dominick's mother and wife who play an important aspect in telling Dominick's story, enough can't be said about the supporting cast. Even Phillip Ettinger, as the teenage versions of Dominick and Thomas, doesn't just embody Ruffalo's physicality but vocal tone and mannerisms too in his twin act.

ALSO READ: Mark Ruffalo CONFIRMS Parasite series rumours: I might be playing the father, we’re waiting on the script

As mesmerising as the performances were in I Know This Much Is True, there were loopholes in the adapted script; the gap of which was heavily put on Ruffalo's trusted shoulders. Certain key elements, like Dominick's grandfather's manuscript reveal came a little too late to the scenario with certain sequences feeling too stretched to be able to devour at one-go in a six-part miniseries.

However, for anyone who has had to deal with loss and the growing anguish of having to move on with their lives, I Know This Much Is True ages like fine wine as Mark's twin act hits you hard before healing you. There's a tiny ray of hope at the end of I Know This Much Is True and that hope is and will forever be, family.

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