All is True, rated PG-13
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen
Austin Family Critical Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 4 of 5 stars
It seems inevitable that actor, writer and director Kenneth Branagh, who has brought numerous William Shakespeare adaptations to the big screen (including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and his extraordinary four-hour Hamlet), would eventually play Shakespeare himself. After a series of studio films, in which he was seemingly a director-for-hire (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Cinderella among them), Branagh has returned to the kind of cinema at which he excels.
All is True isn’t an all-encompassing biopic of Shakespeare, however. The film instead focuses on the playwright’s later years, in which he returned home to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1613 and effectively retired from writing plays. The film examines the life – and people, including his wife Anne (Judi Dench) – he left behind, and the consequences of spending his glory years away from home.
In a way, All is True is more fascinating than a decades-spanning portrait of the man may have been. The smaller scope and limited timeframe allow for a more thorough examination of the man himself, as opposed to a biopic straining to include every major life event and seminal play of his career.
In the midst of the summer wave of blockbusters, All is True hasn’t received much attention, but it’s a worthy addition to Branagh’s impressive career-long exploration into Shakespeare’s work. It’s also a story that, to my knowledge, has never been told before. It is now playing at the Regal Arbor at Great Hills, and I encourage everyone to seek it out while it’s still in cinemas.
Despite being rated PG-13, there is nothing truly objectionable in the film. Any middle school or high school student with an interest in theatre or Shakespeare, in particular, will find this a fascinating portrait, made with care by one of his greatest modern-day interpreters.