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“All Is True” To Be or Not To Be





Review by John Delia, Sr.

The year is only one quarter gone and we have had several biography movies come to theaters. The film All Is True features a drama on the last three years of William Shakespeare and it’s good. The film follows the Bard as he closes family doors tackling the project of bringing his family together after a long absence. It’s as true as could be told with information available and stretched as if one of Shakespeare’s plays.

It’s 1613 and leaving London for his house at Stratford-upon Avon, William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) settles in with his wife Anne (Judi Dench) and his two daughters Susannah Shakespeare Hall (Lydia Wilson) and Judith Shakespeare (Kathryn Wilder). His wife has been getting along well enough, but she has not been visited by William since before the death of their son Hamnet so many years ago.

Kenneth Branagh and Kathryn Wilder in All Is True

With the destruction by fire of the Globe Theatre in London, he feels his legacy has come to an end. He’s determined to never write another play and just be back in his home town. However, there’s enough drama going on in Strafford that could be the basis for another tragedy.

Played out like a conglomeration of a couple of his plays, the movie digs into Susannah’s married life to a Puritan advocate John Hall. While occupied with dreams of being the heir to her father’s estate, Susannah knows that if he lives to a ripe old age, that her daughter Elizabeth will have a good life. That is of course if currently unmarried Judith doesn’t bare a son before he dies.

Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Lydia Wilson, Jack Colgrave Hirst, Kathryn Wilder, and Eleanor de Rohan in All Is True

Complications abound as William deals with family problems and psychological ones of his own. Director Kenneth Branagh a known thespian having played roles in so many Shakespearian plays, lays out his story at perfect locations. He dressed his actors in clothing of the era and powders their noses to fit the characters. He then participates as the Bard and gives a terrific performance.

With Ben Elton’s screenplay in hand, Branagh puts his nicely cast of notable stars to work creating a smart period piece that shines. With Judi Dench as Anne Shakespeare how could he miss? She pulls off another show stopper making Anne a dutiful wife, who bides her time for the right moment to put her husband on the block for the truth he’s been seeking in the death of his only male heir. She’s the matriarch and one that knows how to maneuver herself in position to get her way.

Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Lydia Wilson, and Kathryn Wilder in All Is True

Giving a powerful performance as William Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh gives his usual fine performance. He becomes the man who tries to come to grips with his absenteeism that has put so much distance between him and his family. Still the poet and teacher, he uses his power to keep his family from succumbing to local jealousy and vindictive villagers. I love his performance that kept me mesmerized and in awe of the character he created throughout the film.

All is True has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements, suggestive material and language. The film plays out in understandable English and does not overburden the audience with Shakespearian dialogue.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An interesting biography with a lot of drama. (4 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Kathryn Wilder, Judi Dench, Lydia Wilson, John Colgrave, Eleanor de Rohan, Ian McKellen, Jimmy Yuill, Hadley Fraser, Sean Foley
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Ben Elton
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, suggestive material and language
Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.
Opening Date: May 24, 2019
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Released in: Standard, Color

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