Steeped in misery, I Know This Much Is True boasts a compelling and ambitious story that has somewhat failed to deliver thus far. Directed by Derek Cianfrance of Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines – the tone is bleak, miserable, and drab. Cianfrance’s ‘film’ (as he calls it) tells the tale of two flawed human beings, that he so clearly loves and connects to. Although sometimes effective, the series’ first three episodes lacks in getting the spectator to truly empathize and connect.
I Know This Much Is True follows identical twins Dominick (Ruffalo) and Thomas Birdsey (Ruffalo) as the former revisits his relationship with his brother, a schizophrenic. Opening with a gruesome start, Thomas sits in a public library where he proceeds to chop his hand off as a sacrifice to God. Dominick is called into the hospital and has a challenging choice to make. The doctors want to reattach Thomas’ hand, while Thomas begs for Dominick to allow his sacrifice to mean something by not signing the doctor’s form of approval. Consequently, unforeseen complications put Thomas confined within an asylum.
The show is paced like you are watching a six and a half hour film, not to its own benefit. It’s extremely slow and quite grueling to watch at some points. However, what keeps it going is its cinematography. Undeniably, the style of filming is rather pleasing to look at. The narrative notoriously time jumps to different points in the leading character’s lives, showing more as a miniseries than a film ever could. The use of 35mm film allows the series to fluidly travel across these time periods, each era feels lived in and has a texture that digital simply could not achieve.
Reliance on the acting is clearly seen in the heavy-lifting Ruffalo is told to perform. An additional 30 pounds defines the difference between the two twins, as Dominic is a beefed up version of the frail-looking Thomas. Ruffalo’s interactions are seamlessly cut and performed, it’s so natural and feels not doctored. Mark Ruffalo and the cinematography certainly are the shining qualities. Both aspects work favourably with the use of long lenses to hone in on facial expressions, Cianfrance barely ever lets go of their emotions.
However, the greatest flaw of the show lies in its intrigue. So far, it is faltering when trying to captivate such a dramatic and emotional story. By episode 3, it feels as if one has been dragged across concrete. Perhaps intentional, but for being halfway through this miniseries – one should start getting a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. The episodes individually have their moments, such as the shocking introduction to Thomas in a public library. Quite frankly, the misery depicted lacks any fascination. Many will find this a rather miserable watch.