When you think about it, we shouldn’t really be surprised that Mark Ruffalo could absolutely nail a performance in which he plays two, very different characters in one production. But there’s no hulk smashing or green, WWE-esque muscles here. Just a pair of tortured twins.
One-man-show Ruffalo plays identical twins Dominick and Thomas Birdsey. Whilst raised in the same, dysfunctional home, with the same violent stepfather, their lives have turned out very differently. Thomas has been in and out of hospital for 20 years, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and Dominick bound by love and mutual grief determines to help his brother in whatever way he can.
Let us say straight away, this is some seriously difficult viewing. The series begins with Thomas cutting his hand off in a library, thinking it would prevent the Gulf War, and this dark intensity continues to the final credits. The twins’ story is full of heartbreak – they grew up not knowing their biological father, and when their mother passed away she left an autobiography by their paternal grandfather, which they must unpick to reveal their family history. This information is fed to us in flashbacks, breaking up the present misery with the past’s.
But if you can face it, we really recommend a watch. If you’re like Must you’ll spend most of the six-part series in awe of Mark Ruffalo’s remarkable performance as the Birdsey twins. As Dominick he is a good man, who is tortured, bitter, frustrated and desperate, whilst his portrayal of Thomas is heartbreakingly convincing, nervous and tense.
There’s little surprise then, that he won a Golden Globe for his performance. The press for I Know This Must is True was good, too, if cautious of such a relentlessly gloomy series. The Independent’s Ed Cumming called it: “sensitively written, stylishly directed,” and “brilliantly acted.” The New York Times’s Mike Hale argued that the story is “more melodrama than genuine tragedy or social commentary,” but says “Ruffalo is dependably good throughout.” And Lucy Mangan in The Guardian agrees. She says if you can stand the “compassion fatigue,” then “the strength of all the performances…makes it worth watching.”
First shown May 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.