Part of what increasingly turned me off as the three seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale unfolded was the tendency to torture for torture’s sake. After the first season, we got the point. Watching its abundance and extremes play out didn’t add value to the story and plight of the characters. It felt like we were being bathed in torture porn.
Watching the television adaptation of Wally Lamb’s book, I Know This Much Is True, feels similar. It is being besieged by the torpor of other people’s grief, the heartsick hopelessness of spiraling mental illness, the relentless anger unleashed as life goes by.
The setting is grey; the mood is dark and ominous – it dwells on unpleasant moment after unpleasant moment, and relies on performances that are raw and tortured. This is not to say that it isn’t a well-told story; it’s exceptionally well done, and the performances are outstanding, particularly from Mark Ruffalo and Kathryn Hahn. But it’s painful and sad drudgery to watch.