Somebody scribble Mark Ruffalo’s name on the Emmy nominations list pronto.
It’s bound to happen as a result of his performance in I Know This Much is True, a new HBO miniseries based on the 1998 best-selling novel by Wally Lamb.
Ruffalo plays twin roles in the show, a tour-de-force opportunity we’ve seen from the likes of Sally Field, Jeremy Irons, Ewan McGregor, Tatiana Maslany. And even Elizabeth Montgomery.
Set in Connecticut 1990, he plays Dominick and Thomas, two brothers raised under ailing mother (Melissa Leo) and oppressive stepfather Ray (John Procaccino). Such is Ray’s maltreatment that Thomas grows up as a paranoid schizophrenic, whom Dominic vows to his dying mother to look after.
It is a noble but suffocating gesture by Dominic as Thomas’ wild, unrestrained outbursts lead to medical and legal calamities: meltdowns in public, running across bustling highways, and one particularly distressing opening scene involving a knife.
In this chilly, blue-collar saga we also meet overt translator Nedra (Juliette Lewis), who has designs on Dominic, currently separated from his wife Dessa (Kathryn Hahn). The miniseries will also feature Rosie O’Donnell and Archie Panjabi.
Written and directed by Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines, The Light Between Oceans), this is a star turn by Ruffalo, who looks utterly convincing in scenes where the brothers are performing side by side. Ruffalo demonstrates torturous depth and brilliant range as the twins in a work sensitively directed by Cianfrance.
Juliette Lewis is similarly magnetic in an erratic role tailor-made for her nuanced talents.
But this is also an intense and consuming experience. The themes of betrayal, sacrifice and forgiveness are a demanding ask of viewers and at 6 or more episodes it’s a tall-order for all but devotees of the book or an acting awards panel.
That said, I can’t fault Ruffalo’s performance.
I Know This Much is True is now screening Mondays on FOX Showcase.