‘All Is True’ is a new drama about the later years of playwright William Shakespeare’s life, getting its title from the alternative name for his play ‘Henry VIII’. Kenneth Branagh directs the film as well as staring in the lead role as Shakespeare alongside Judi Dench and Ian McKellan from a screenplay by Ben Elton. After the Globe Theatre burns down during a performance of ‘Henry VIII’ Shakespeare returns to his hometown Stratford where he must face up to the more personal aspects of his and his family’s life.
‘All Is True’ certainly does present an interesting insight into Shakespeare’s personal life, one which will be especially enlightening to those who don’t have much previous knowledge of the renowned playwright. It deals with Shakespeare’s own more intimate feelings and struggles, miles away from the bravado of his more widely accepted persona when residing in London. As well as offering this more detailed look at his life, ‘All Is True’ highlights the impact his career and actions had on his family. Furthermore, the film’s narrative makes time for both of his daughters, Susanna and Judith giving each of them moments under the microscope too, telling parts of their story not just their fathers. The film is quite slow paced but it has enough drama and humour included to sustain the interest of audiences. The central storyline is rather poignant and will evoke sympathy from viewers as it dissects its layered narrative with the experiences and reactions of several individuals being considered, not just Shakespeare’s.
The cast are all very good. Branagh looks the part and he performs very well, brilliantly humanising the famous playwright, giving him more depth than what has previously been portrayed of him. Whilst Ian McKellan features prominently on the film’s promotional material (and why wouldn’t he!?) his role in the film is more of an extended cameo appearance. Nonetheless, he brings with him his wealth of experience and screen presence giving a nice uplift to the pace of the film. His inclusion as the Earl of Southampton alludes to other elements of Shakespeare’s life too which will be an intriguing inclusion for many casual fans of his. It’s Judi Dench as Anne Hathaway and Kathryn Wilder who portrays Judith Shakespeare who serve as the main support for Branagh’s turn though. They superbly demonstrate the effect his absence has had on the family and how it’s directly impacted their individual relationship with their respective husband and father. Wilder’s performance and the writing around her character also put a spotlight on the terrible sexism of the time which could have easily been ignored, so credit to Elton’s screenplay for tackling this.
‘All Is True’ is a sympathetic look at the man behind the verse, Shakespeare as a husband and a father rather than just the playwright. It includes a lot of the major events of his life and takes time to focus on each of them, alluding to some of the unconfirmed rumours that his life and work also provoked. The screenplay does take its time but when the film features a cast as talented as this it allows the chance for audiences to fully appreicate their performances, reflecting upon them as Shakespeare reflects on his life and career in this thoughtful envisioning of his later years.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 7/10
Question: What is your favourite Kenneth Branagh film?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
Thanks for reading this review and please let us know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.
Thanks to Queens Film Theatre for screening access