Review: In ‘I Know This Much Is True,’ It’s Mark Ruffalo Times Two


The new HBO mini-series “I Know This Much Is True” takes a personality and places him via a wringer that’s so unforgiving, you’d count on it to flatten him fully, to squeeze out every little thing however the allegory of struggling. That it doesn’t — that there’s sufficient juice in him to maintain you reasonably for many of the six-hour-plus story — is nearly completely due to the person enjoying him, Mark Ruffalo. It’s arduous to think about anybody else who may discover this a lot life within the present’s modern-day Job.

While that grisly (though not exceedingly graphic) scene is the catalyst for a tragic family saga, it’s only one item in Dominick’s catalog of grief. In addition to his brother’s condition, which irradiates Dominick with both guilt and self-pity, he’s haunted by the deaths of close family members, a heartbreaking divorce, his hatred of his strict stepfather and his rage at never knowing who his biological father was. He is his brother’s keeper and, of course, his alter ego, with a hair-trigger rage that’s the purportedly rational counterpart to Thomas’s involuntary darkness.

It’s a lot, and it plays out in 1990 against the backdrop of the first Gulf War, the big story on the television sets before which the characters are often slumped. Thomas, whose schizophrenia entails hearing messages from God, cuts off his hand as a sacrifice to prevent the war. It’s just one of the story’s many futile gestures.

Ruffalo is dependably good throughout, delineating Dominick’s anger and weariness while making him more than just an avatar for them, and, without much help from the script, getting across Thomas’s helpless pain. The playing-twins trick doesn’t often enter your mind, partly because the story is so focused on Dominick but mainly because Ruffalo’s work is so unobtrusive.

The one exception to that is Juliette Lewis, who’s funny and vivid in an oddly limited role as a grad student who translates Dominick’s grandfather’s manuscript, and then tells him that perhaps he shouldn’t read it. She has one great scene, a drunken nighttime visit to Dominick’s house, but then mostly vanishes.

It’s the series’s one really lively scene, but even there Cianfrance and Lipes’s tastefully off-kilter, hand-held aesthetic maintains a mood but doesn’t do much for the energy level. And while “I Know This Much Is True” pulls you along on the strengths of its soap opera mechanics, its smoothly downbeat vibe and Ruffalo’s performance, it promises more than it delivers — eventually the story collapses in on itself, settling for the sentimental formulas it’s been pretending it was above.



Source link Nytimes.com

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