Well, this was delightful in its own way. After five and a half episodes of well-crafted and dramatic misery, the series ended with the ultimate grace note of forgiveness.
And it actually improved on the novel’s ending.
Now, to be very fair, I greatly enjoyed Wally Lamb’s book. He dug deep into Dominick’s psyche and allowed the reader to see him learn, grow, and change over the course of a very long book. Told entirely from his first person perspective, this was a solid look at a troubled man.
It also was a little too happy in the ending. Book-Dominick reconnects with Dessa, they remarry, and adopt Dominick’s ex-girlfriend Joy’s baby because that young woman got HIV from her step-uncle, the father of the baby. All that stuff is more or less left out in favor of a silent shot of Dessa, now working in the children’s wing of the local hospital, handing Dominick a baby that he cradles. It’s sweet, much more ambiguous, and says a lot without saying a word.
Besides, Dominick’s apology to her in this final episode for, well, everything he’d ever done to her, something she appears to have already forgiven him for many times over but just needed to hear him say, was not only a thing of underplayed beauty but if I heard the commentary that came on after the episode ended, it was also entirely ad-libbed by Mark Ruffalo on the spot. I knew the guy was good. Sometimes its amazing to see just how good he is, especially considering I think the first time I saw Ruffalo in anything, he was dancing in his tighty whiteys with Kirsten Dunst in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
But that’s the happy ending where Dominick learns to forgive others, starting with himself. His attempt to bring Thomas home fails miserably as Thomas wanders off in the middle of the night and accidentally (probably) drowns himself. That just forces Dominick to do some more, finishing his awful grandfather’s story, seeing Dr. Patel, and after yelling angry abuse at Ray during the in-house reception. But Domenico Tempestra’s memoir does one thing for Dominick by forcing him to take a long look in the mirror and begin the process of forgiveness.
That actually starts with his stepfather Ray, a much more reasonable man when he’s had a major heart attack. That leads to Dominick’s learning his father was one Henry Drinkwater, a young Native American, son of a co-worker of Domenico’s (who the old Sicilian hated), who died in Korea without ever knowing Ma Birdsey was pregnant with her twins. It also explains a lot about Ralph Drinkwater, and the conversation between Dominick and Ralph at the end of the episode may have been a true highlight, even better than the one between Dominick and Dessa. There was resentment on one side for something the other didn’t know, and confusion opposite that. Dominick’s explanation that he literally only learned he and Ralph are cousins smooths over a lot, and it looks like these two might become if not the best of friends, then at least they can get to know each other, and that’s a lot of what I Know This Much Is True is ultimately all about: getting to know yourself and others and not letting ignorance, rage, and unfair societal expectations get in the way.
Yeah, I just dug this one all over. Strong performances, strong writing, strong directing, and strong everything is readily on display. Really, really glad I watched this.
10 out of 10 Dual Ruffalos.
But now, something else, and since I just finished one HBO mini-series I really wanted to see, how about another one? This one is a bit different, a period piece set in an alternate timeline, namely The Plot Against America.
Huh. If I sometimes think the things I watch are intentionally relevant to the times that produced them, I will be greatly thinking about that this time around.