'All Is True' Review: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench in "Touching" Shakespeare Biopic
Kenneth Branagh Directs and Stars in William Shakespeare Biopic 'All Is True' - Which Tackles the Genius' Last Days
Mirror, 3 February 2019
If anyone knows their William Shakespeare, it's Kenneth Branagh.
The thespian returns to his love of the bard with this touching, funny and expertly acted biopic 'All Is True', which tackles Shakespeare's final years from his decision to retire to his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Following the fire that destroyed his renowned Globe Theatre, William Shakespeare (Branagh) returns to his family home after years of fame and success to find a distant wife in Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench), two daughters encountering scrutiny and scandal, and his own personal grief for his late son Hamnet still not diminished.
As Will seeks to carve out a fresh beginning in his hometown, he finds that regret, passion and nostalgia run deep here, and he may have to confront his own demons if the Shakespeare family is to have a future at all.
Branagh is everything you would expect in his portrayal of the historical icon - he's witty, touching, sensual and haunted. Often accused of being a narcissistic director who pushes himself to the forefront of each film he helms, despite playing the protagonist, he lets his supporting players have much time in the spotlight.
Dench is a resilient, earthy and no-nonsense Anne, instantly sympathetic but not wearisome in the slightest - weary but striving to carry on through for the sake of her family.
The leading pair create a real sense of history and an unspoken schism - made all the more authentic with the actors' long-running real-life friendship.
The actresses who portray Shakespeare's daughters are also noteworthy, in particular, Kathryn Wilder who makes a fiery and embittered Judith Shakespeare, who reveals a great longing to be accepted by her father on her own merits.
In a small but memorable role is Ian McKellen as the flamboyant but sentimental Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, a face from Will's past who is much more important to the writer's work than some might expect.
Branagh does not play too fast and loose with history, but fills in the gaps and chooses which theories and hypotheses about Shakespeare's life that would best suit this emotional and theatrical piece.
In places it is showy and garish, but then what better way to honour the Upstart Crow?
Overall, with its witty script and passionate delivery by its entire cast, Branagh has created an entertaining and gooey love letter to one of his heroes and an empathetic portrayal of grief.