All is True: Film Review

Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench are both Shakespeare veterans and have performed his works together on the stage so it’s no surprise that their latest collaboration is about the legendary playwright – although this time it is about his personal life rather than an adaptation of his works.

All is True – taken from the alternative title of his play Henry VIII – is set after Shakespeare’s beloved Globe Theatre in London burns down in 1613 and he returns home to Stratford-upon-Avon, never to write a play again. In the final years of his life, he rebuilds his relationships with his wife Anne Hathaway (Dench) and his daughters Susannah (Lydia Wilson) and Judith (Kathryn Wilder) and finally mourns his late son Hamnet, who passed away years before.

Shakespeare is an incredibly famous person and I am familiar with a few of his texts but I had no idea about his home life so All is True was very enlightening and interesting. I expected the actors to speak in Shakespearean tongue but they thankfully don’t – in fact, the script by Ben Elton is very modern and far more witty and funny that I imagined. I expected a very heavy-going dramatic affair and while it is ultimately very sad, there are plenty of moments of levity to balance it out.

Branagh, who is also directing, is a remarkable actor but I couldn’t really get past his look, with a prosthetic nose and bald patch to give him a receding hairline. He looked so odd! I also found he went bit overboard in a couple of argument scenes, really yelling in an over-excessive way. My favourite performances were from the sisters while Dench was subtle and reliably lovely. There also wasn’t enough Ian McKellen for my liking.

All is True told a fascinating, poignant story detailing the tragedies and scandals in the personal life of Shakespeare and his family. I can’t imagine this will appeal to many, so I’m surprised it’s getting such a wide release, but it is an interesting and sad watch.

In cinemas now 

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