Kenneth Branagh | UK, 2018 | English | 101 minutes | Principal Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen
An all-star cast headlines this historical drama from Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express, Much Ado About Nothing), a delightful telling of William Shakespeare’s return home to his family after years of success in London.
It’s 1613, and Shakespeare (Branagh) is the most celebrated playwright of his era. Yet when a cannon misfires during a performance of Henry VIII, his beloved Globe Theatre burns to the ground. With no other options, Shakespeare must return to Stratford to once again live with his family and face those he left behind in pursuit of personal triumph.
All Is True meets the high standard we’ve come to expect of British period dramas: it is charming in wit, lush in costumes and setting, and gorgeous in cinematography, all wrapped in a great story. This is also the most vulnerable portrayal we’ve seen of the oft-played Shakespeare. Haunted by the death of Hamnet, his only son, he does all he can to fall into the good graces of his family.
Branagh provides depth and humour to the role, and he is anchored wonderfully by Judi Dench (Philomena, Red Joan) as Shakespeare’s long-neglected wife, Anne Hathaway, and the always reliable Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes, The Lord of the Rings) as the Earl of Southampton.
The tale of an artist coming to terms with his failings amidst a sea of success, All Is True is satisfying from start to finish. It’s the kind of comforting, intelligent cinema that makes you want to cozy up with a warm cup of tea.