‘I Know This Much Is True’: Critics Are ‘Warning’ Viewers That the HBO Series is Very Dark

I Know This Much Is True is a new HBO series starring Mark Ruffalo. The Marvel Cinematic Universe alum plays twins in the miniseries, which was released on May 10 of this year. While Ruffalo has received rave reviews for his acting, critics are already calling the series things like “devastating” for its dark subject matter.

Mark Ruffalo stars as two twin brothers in the 6-episode TV show ‘I Know This Much Is True’

I Know This Much Is True TCA tour with Mark Ruffalo
Derek Cianfrance and Mark Ruffalo of I Know This Much Is True appear onstage during the HBO segment of the 2020 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

In one of HBO’s newer series, I Know This Much Is True, actor Mark Ruffalo portrays two twin brothers. As Time reported on the two characters’ backgrounds:

Dominick and Thomas Birdsey are as different as identical twins can be. Born six minutes apart on opposite sides of midnight on New Year’s Eve 1950, they began life at the end of one decade and the beginning of the next—with separate birthdays and, as students during the Vietnam War, divergent draft numbers.

The 40-year-old twins are very distinct personalities — making Ruffalo’s job that much harder. Time also reports on the show’s “ceaseless torrent of misfortune,” warning: “Comfort TV this is not.” However, the writer didn’t seem to think that the darkness paid off. The critic wrote:

Though writer-director Derek Cianfrance smartly dilutes the melodrama with the same blunt realism that made his 2010 film Blue Valentine a gut punch, he doesn’t entirely succeed at bringing the narrative down to earth.

‘I Know This Much Is True’ characters seem to be ‘cursed’, reviews say

The Hollywood Reporter‘s review wasn’t much different in terms of tone.

“You name the adversity and it comes into play in I Know This Much Is True,” THR wrote. The characters, they muse, appear “endlessly cursed.”(We’ll spare you their list of traumas in the sake of spoilers — in case are still brave enough to watch). The review continued:

Like the book it’s based upon, Cianfrance’s limited series is a tragedy of the deepest and most spiraling sort — not a pandering effort to jerk tears from the fragile viewer, but a torrent of grounded misery so unrelenting it passes from Strindberg to Shakespeare to something biblical.

The Telegraph also pointed out that the novel on which the HBO series was based was once part of Oprah Winfrey’s book club.

“Oprah likes a story that packs an emotional punch, and this one will pummel you to the floor,” the reviewer wrote about I Know This Much Is True.

The AV Club reported grimly, “if you aren’t already mired in sadness, here comes HBO’s I Know This Much Is True to fully extinguish any spark of levity you might have had left.” The publication didn’t recommend binge-watching this particular series “unless you really have a hankering to wallow.” Overall, I Know This Much Is True was too much of a bummer for the reviewer.

As the critique concluded, “Do you really want to spend six hours of your life feeling as sad as can possibly be?”

The new HBO series is a ‘heavy, heavy show’, according to critics

Collider featured one of the few reviewers who actually recommended I Know This Much Is True. Still, they featured a “warning” at the top of the article. The reviewer cautioned:

 I Know This Much Is True is a heavy, heavy show. That’s the lead I’m going with for this review. As a reporter, I was taught to put the most important information up front, and if I owe you nothing else, it’s that simple warning.

The review went on to call I Know This Much Is True “devastating from start to finish.”

“It’s the kind of show that puts you in an emotional chokehold and never lets go,” they wrote. Collider acknowledged that the subject matter might be too traumatic for some viewers.

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo of I Know This Much Is True poses in the green room during the 2020 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

“The show’s unrelenting bleakness certainly won’t be for everyone, and none of the characters are especially ‘likable,'” they continued. However, the reviewer thought the series came together as a whole, and it made an impact.

“And yet… and yet… I absolutely loved it,” the critic wrote. The Collider writer concluded:

Those brave enough to watch I Know This Much Is True in its entirety will be richly rewarded by this sweet, sad gem of a series, which boasts stellar writing and marvelous performances from a very impressive ensemble.