Kenneth Branagh has lived to portray William Shakespeare, and does a fine job, but "All is True" seems intended only for fellow die-hard Shakespearean devotees, and no one else.
Kenneth Branagh, the actor, has the ability to melt away into the character he's playing, an ability that still gets him labeled as a "character actor," even though he has had more leading roles than the typical character actor has. Kenneth Branagh, the director, is almost single-handedly devoted to keeping the memory of Shakespeare's work alive for future generations, having starred or directed in "Henry V," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Othello," "Hamlet," "Love's Labour's Lost," "As You Like It" and "Macbeth." In-between these classics, he's directed film's like "A Midwinter's Tale," which centers on a group of actors playing "Hamlet," or he has infused bigger-budget blockbusters with Shakespearean-level grandiose, as he did when he directed "Thor" and even Disney's live-action "Cinderella."
It's no shock then, that Branagh finally inhabits the skin of his idol, Shakespeare himself. In "All is True," Branagh plays William Shakespeare in his final days, living in his country home in Stratford England with his wife, Anne (Judi Dench). A fire at the famed Globe Theater during a performance of his "Henry VIII" seemed to play into Shakespeare's retirement, as he never wrote again following its destruction (the title "All is True" is even insider-speak, as this was an alternative title for "Henry VII").
We know that the fire happened, historically, but amazingly enough there is little factual information about Shakespeare's personal life. Branagh imagines him as a man who has been keeping busy as not to deal with the despair and depression caused when his son, Hamnet, died at a young age. Upon returning home however, he cannot escape the rush of emotions, and it overwhelms him.
The movie itself is slow and contemplative, and it imagines that the viewer is just as fascinated by its subject. But without much context for the rest of his career, his impact or his accomplishments, this version of Shakespeare doesn't a good story make. A mystery surrounding Hamnet's death becomes William's last obsession, but it also distracts the story from delving much further than surface-level.
Branagh though, has lived to play this role, and his passion shines through. "All is True" is a mash-up of facts and fiction, meant mainly for those that already hold this man in high regard...but for anyone coming to this picture wanting to know what all the hype is about, it ends up being much ado about nothing.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History.
Run Time: 1 hour 41 minutes.
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Lolita Chakrabarti, Jack Colgrave Hirst.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh ("Cinderella," "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," "Macbeth," "Thor," "Hamlet," "Henry V").
"All is True" opens in limited-release on Friday, May 24th, 2019.
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