A quiet tribute to the greatest writer of all time in his retirement.
All is True
Director: Kenneth Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing)
Screenplay: Ben Elton (Three Summers)
Cast: Branagh (Hamlet), Lolita Chakrabarti
Runtime: 1 hr 41 min
By: John DeSando
The general details of Shakespeare’s retirement to Stratford, his hometown, are known, but the despair over the early death of his son, Hamnet, and his need to be a respected bourgeois may be slightly imaginative in All is True. No matter, what is certain is that he already was known as a poet and playwright of renown and had family challenges just like us.
Kenneth Branagh’s lovely, peaceful rendition of this period, as well as his own underplayed Shakespeare, brings joy to those who have had to sit through Godzilla, Shaft, and Men in Black this summer to mention a few of the confections that pale beside Branagh’s classy drama.
The depiction of a thriving little mercantile town 100 miles west of London is beautiful to behold, a living Constable, and the way the Bard navigates family and friends with the cool of a retired rock star is pleasant. After all, why not just play him low key as the greatest literary mind in all of civilization can’t adequately be honored with bombast. Gently is the way Branagh gives the genius.
Although many anxiously awaited the scene with Branagh and Ian McKellen as the Earl of Southampton, it was too short but nonetheless satisfactory. Not only two gifted actors but also an interchange that suggests the bard dedicated lines to a beautiful youth, the Earl himself: “For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings / That then I scorn to change my state with kings.” The Earl’s tamping down the bard’s ardor is fun and suggestive of a side of Shakespeare unknown to groundlings like me.
The drama Shakespeare experiences with his two daughters is also carefully handled with no screaming and much respect from a dad still reeling from his and everyone else’s disappointment that he missed his son’s burial years before. Wife Anne (Judi Dench) reminds him he was writing Merry Wives of Windsor then. Ouch.
For the millions who worship Shakespeare, All is True is no Shakespeare in Love—it is so much more.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com