All Is True


Reviewed by: Donald Munro

All Is True
"Elton has free reign to give life to just about any flight of fancy, but what he produces is quite ordinary." | Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing

All Is True is Ben Elton's imagining of William Shakespeare's twilight years. It is directed by Kenneth Branagh who also stars as the bard. Branagh has a long track record in bringing Shakespeare's work to the big screen. Out of the half dozen or so films that he's directed, his version of Hamlet is probably the most well known.

Not much is known about Shakespeare's life. Beyond the records of births, deaths and marriages, a court case against his daughter and his will, there is very little. Elton has free reign to give life to just about any flight of fancy, but what he produces is quite ordinary: Shakespeare the absentee father returned. In this fiction, after the Globe theatre burns to the ground Shakespeare gives up writing and returns to Stratford-upon-Avon, a broken marriage and long buried grief. He is haunted by the ghost of his long dead son Hamnet (Sam Ellis), a clear parallel to the way the character of Hamlet was haunted by his father. In order to come to terms with Hamnet's death Shakespeare has to reassess his view of his family. Hamnet was not the literary child prodigy of his imagination and his other children should be of greater value to him. Then there is a marriage, a trial, and a twee explanation for the second best bed, and finally death. Its a bit ye olde kitchene sink.

Copy picture

All Is True is full of fine cinematography. It has some beautiful landscape shots. It uses low light levels to produce some elegant vignettes that look theatrical but overly stagey. For a period drama the costumes and sets aren't much to write home about, all about par for the course, but the prosthetic work on Kenneth Branagh is quite something. It makes him look like a waxwork version of the bard. Its a bit like he walked straight out of Madame Tussaud's. And there's his nose. If he'd been playing Cyrano de Bergerac I could see the point - that's not true, its a really big point. Judi Dench and Kathryn Wilder put in good performances as Anne Hathaway and Judith Shakespeare respectively, and Ian McKellen works well as Henry Wriothesley. Branagh, on the other hand, seems a bit flat like his face isn't moving quite as it should under the make-up.

As a film, All Is True feels to me like it's missing something but I'm not sure what that something is. It feels bitty and incohesive, like the ghost of a better film.

Reviewed on: 11 Feb 2019
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A look at the final days in the life of renowned playwright William Shakespeare.
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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writer: Ben Elton

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Lolita Chakrabarti, Jack Colgrave Hirst, Doug Colling, Eleanor de Rohan, Judi Dench

Year: 2018

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


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