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All is True

The final act of the world's greatest playwright

There is a knowing irony in calling this fanciful Shakespeare biopic All Is True. Written by Ben Elton and directed by its star Kenneth Branagh, the film plays so fast and loose with the playwright’s final years that it’s clear that accuracy is not the priority here.

But there is a succinct emotional truth to All is True, whose name comes from the alternative title to Shakespeare’s play, Henry VIII. It was during a performance of that play that a cannon burnt the Globe Theatre to the ground – and it is in the aftermath of that disaster that the film begins. Shakespeare, vowing that he is “done with stories”, returns to his family in Stratford to live out the rest of his days, but he has been absent for so long that his arrival disrupts their lives entirely.

He is promptly consigned to the guest room by his wife Anne, played with commanding steeliness by Judi Dench (who, at 84, is 27 years older than her real-life counterpart, but she’s so good you don’t begrudge her for it). Meanwhile, his sharp-tongued daughter Judith (Kathryn Wilder), a 28-year-old “spinster”, resents him for dredging up the death of her twin brother Hamnet. His other daughter, Susanna (Lydia Wilson), is unhappily married to Puritan John Hall, and may be having an affair with a local haberdasher.

As Shakespeare, Branagh delivers every nuance. Having directed and starred in countless adaptations of the Bard’s plays, he could easily have reeled off each line as a bombastic soliloquy. Instead, his Shakespeare is weary and conflicted, wretchedly egotistic one moment (“Through my genius I’ve brought fame and fortune to this house”), overly meek the next – as in a memorable scene with Ian McKellen’s Earl of Southampton.

In the same scene, Shakespeare is told that for all his genius he has lived “the smallest life”. That may be so, but the film paints that life so richly it hardly matters.

Courtesy: Alexandra Pollard, The Independent

Showtimes: 

No screenings currently scheduled.

Directed by: 
Kenneth Branagh
Running Time: 
101
Country(ies): 
U.K.
Year: 
2018
Language: 
English
Starring: 
Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Lydia Wilson, Kathryn Wilder, Jimmy Yuill
Official site: 
Link
Screenplay by: 
Ben Elton
Rated: 
PG - Mature Theme
Language May Offend

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