History is insane. It’s complex, unverified, and fictional. The grains of truth layered with thick lies imposed by the powerful. Will we ever be able to authenticate, “how much of it is true?” HBO’s six part TV Mini Series, I Know This Much is True, is a fable that tries to answer the complex questions of American History, through an enthralling narrative following it’s protagonist Dominick and Thomas Birdsey, identical twins performed impactfully by none other than, Mark Ruffalo.
I Know This Much is True (TV Series) is an adaptation of Wally Lamb’s 1998 best-selling novel, brought to the screen by Derek Cianfrance (who also did the adaptation). It is a one man show, impressively carried out by Mark Ruffalo, who even scored an Emmy for his performance in the series. But every good actor requires a better writer and more importantly, a much better story to say something, which would influence the viewers or at least captivate them for the time being, and I Know This Much is True fulfills all of it.
Dominick and Thomas Birdsey are identical twins brought up in a family full of secrets, violence and intimidation. Their mother never really reveals the true identity of their father, while the trauma in their childhood persists due to their abusive controlling stepfather (John Procaccino), who thinks Thomas is soft and girly and thus often pushes him off limits, both physically and mentally.
Decades later, Dominick is mentally sane but Thomas develops schizophrenia because of which he has been in and out of mental institutions often.
Dominick and Thomas grew up in Three Rivers, Connecticut, a one time mill town, built by the immigrants who flocked there in the early decades of the 20th century, including Dominick and Thomas’ Sicilian grandfather whose history later haunts Dominick.
The central story revolves around Dominick, who deals with countless grief and miseries, of a mother suffering from big C, a schizophrenic brother, a failed marriage and a step father. I Know This Much is True is a pursuit of Dominick as he struggles with surrounding disorders, trying to fight for his brother against mental institutions, while stabilizing his own personal life and mental sanity.
I Know This Much is True beguiles you with it’s opening scene, when Thomas, in a public library, while enchanting Biblical Terms, cuts off his own hand with a knife, creating a panic in the room.
Mark Ruffalo as Dominick & Thomas
Ruffalo’s performance is so mesmerizing that you might totally forget that he is playing a double role. Dominick and Thomas often feel like characters played by two separate actors and it’s really a compliment in the best of it’s sense. The difference between Dominick and Thomas is not just surface-level, it is much more integrated in their behaviour and emotional characterisation. As Ruffalo tackles enormous obstacles in his way, you feel more connected to his incredible act. He, for sure, has set up some massive acting standards through his work in I Know This Much is True, which is going to be remembered and put to example for a long time.
Gap between Fiction and History
I Know This Much is True (TV Series) flows back and forth in time, even going back decades to show what exactly happened with Dominick and Thomas’ Sicilian grandfather, from whom the family legacy passed on down to the brothers. Dominick gets disclosed to this through a manuscript, handed over to Dominick by his mother, while counting her last days. Dominick’s reading of this eventual translation provides revelations, but also further conviction that his family is “cursed.” Breaking up this calcified family narrative makes up the final sequence of I Know This Much is True.
Dominick’s self reading of his grandfather’s manuscript points out some really gross thoughts in the mind of the readers, that while we are fighting a battle to promote our ethnicity and suppress others, history has something else in store for us. It’s dark and gory where our ancestors who considered themselves white and great, were equally flawed. Most of our ethnicity is mixed and culture derived from one or the other, and not much of it pure (blood) or unique, something on which we really take pride in. In a way, History is heavily plagiarized and fictional so why fight over it.
Dominick ends the series with heart-whelming lines that, I think, pretty much sums up the message of the series, without spilling any spoilers.
“I am not a smart man, particularly. But one day, at long last, I stumbled from dark woods of my own, and my family’s and my country’s past, holding in my hands, these truths. That love grows from forgiveness. That from destruction comes renovation. That the evidence of God exists in our connections to one another. This much, at least, I’ve figured out. I know this much is true.”
I Know This Much is True (TV Series) is slow and not at all entertaining, but it’s gripping and addictive. Anyone who can filter the difference, should really binge this absorbing series. If you are a Mark Ruffalo fan, like me, and have a sweet spot for powerful performances, then please, don’t miss this one. For others, it’s not a sitcom or pretentious cliff hanging Drama, but a notable piece of work that is influential, substantial and leaves you with a mark to remember.
“You can’t get to the light without going through the dark.”
I Know This Much is True (TV Series) is a drama television miniseries co-written and directed by Derek Cianfrance. It is streaming on Hulu.
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