I Know This Much IS True features masterclass acting from Mark Ruffalo is on display in Derek Cianfrance’s six hour tragedy
I Know This Much Is True has relationship and anger issues that remind you have his stunning breakthrough film Blue Valentine (2010) and a generational family interconnectivity (of transferring baggage and doom) from The Place Beyond the Pines. The somber, sad, tone pervades all three films (Cianfrance’s lesser, but still handsomely mounted, The Light Between Oceans is also an incredible bummer of a tragedy). This is who Cianfrance is—whether it is in a shorter film or the 378-minute running time like we have here
Opens with an epic camera pan left as we move from the window to Ruffalo (playing the first of two twin brothers) as he’s wielding a knife for a disturbed sacrifice of sorts. Ruffalo noticeably gained and lost weight for the two different roles. He’s also doing the voice-over for much of the film (that trails off a little- which is lazy) but this is largely a one-man show (and he’s up for it) despite a talented supporting cast that includes Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis, Kathryn Hahn and Rosie O’Donnell- who handles herself very well.
Amazingly, for a running time of this length, Cianfrance shoots this on actual film
George H.W. Bush on the tv, no cell phones, grounds this in the early 1990’s
Plays out like a religious parable (Cain and Abel) or a Greek tragedy—The Godfather– twins, mystery about their birth father, one twin has schizophrenia (Thomas is often quoting scripture, sounds like the book of revelations)
Grounded in realism, plenty of close-ups and a focus on the acting (Ruffalo is certainly up for carrying the film)—Cianfrance goes with an extreme close-up a few times including when the twins’ mother passes. Ruffalo’s Dominick is a very well-rounded character. He’s violent, angry—novelistically rich—the scene of him having issues with security at the hospital harkens back to Gosling’s character has he visits Michelle Williams’ character’s work in Blue Valentine. Uncomfortable realism. “Can you calm down?” seems to be asked of him in every episode. Lonergan’s Margaret (which also has Ruffalo in it coincidentally) seems like a comparison as well—combative and intelligent.
In episode two we get the frame of the two young boys as the camera from Cianfrance pulls back from the Statue of Liberty
Piling on the tragedies can make it lean towards soapy melodrama. Minghella’s The English Patient does the same thing in the first 15 minutes and pulls it off. We get a list of the tragic events several times here.
Far-reaching and generational (which again is straight out of The Place Beyond the Pines)- episode five is the story of the their grandfather Domenico (played by Dogman’s Marcello Fonte). The evil eye and the seven-generation curse.
Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water playing as Ruffalo and his step-father mend fences seems a little Zemeckis-y—too on the nose
Even with Ruffalo’s vast talents and writing like a well delivered “You got to Hell”…. “I’ll meet you there”—far too much of the film is in the psychoanalyst chair in plain shot/reverse shot.
Recommend but not quite a top 10 of the year quality work—not on the level of Blue Valentine or The Place Beyond the Pines
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