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film review

Judi Dench as Anne Hathaway, (third from right) Kenneth Branagh (third from left) as William Shakespeare.Sony Pictures Classics /Mongrel Media

  • All Is True
  • Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
  • Written by: Ben Elton
  • Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian McKellen
  • Classification: PG
  • 101 minutes

Rating:

2 out of 4 stars

For the film, Branagh takes a stab at filling in the blanks of Shakespeare’s retirement, about which there is little officially known.Rob Youngson/Sony Pictures Classics /Mongrel Media

I don’t blame Kenneth Branagh for the disappointment that is All Is True. If I’d spent a good chunk of my career adapting six Shakespeare plays to critical acclaim, I, too, would think I’d wield a firm insight on the man’s psyche. I might even possess the necessary hubris to believe that I, and only I, should step into the Bard’s latter-day boots and produce a speculative-fiction film about the man’s final years.

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Unfortunately, no amount of self-confidence can sustain All Is True, Branagh’s stab at filling in the blanks of Shakespeare’s retirement, about which there is little officially known. Branagh and screenwriter Ben Elton take a few good guesses – mostly revolving around Shakespeare’s grief over the death of his young son, Hamnet, and his troubled relationship with his older wife Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) – but the drama they concoct is so obvious and tedious that the man himself would never, ever touch it. And for a playwright lionized for his dialogue, the language here is borderline insulting, filthy with obvious exposition (“William, hello! It is I, your distant cousin who is unhappy!” is not an actual line, but close).

Branagh himself also looks lost in the role of his professional idol, though perhaps that can be attributed to the ghastly prosthetic chin he’s strapped onto himself for the role, a prop that hides the entire lower half of his face and thus renders his performance half-invisible. Love’s labour’s lost, indeed.

All Is True opens May 24 in Toronto and Vancouver, and June 7 in Montreal

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