“Love me or hate me, both are in my favour… If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart… If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.”William Shakespeare
For some people, the name William Shakespeare conjures up memories of boring English lessons at school, being forced to study texts written in an outdated language. A time they would probably rather forget. Therefore, you can imagine that, for most, the idea of paying to sit in a crowded cinema to watch a movie based on the tail-end of his life, is less than appealing. But I urge you to give it a shot, you might be pleasantly surprised.
It’s 1613, Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VIII’ is showing at his Globe Theatre in London, when a misfiring prop cannon sets the whole theatre alight and burns it to the ground. Distraught at the loss of his theatre, Shakespeare returns home and never writes another play again. However, it soon becomes clear to us that Shakespeare’s brilliance is not fully appreciated by those in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Directed by the brilliant Kenneth Branagh, All Is True offers a sombre and rather melancholic look past the writer to the man behind the pen. A man grieving the death of his only son, guilty over the neglect of his family and desperate to escape the shame of his family history.
As well as taking the helm, Branagh also adopts the mantle of the lead role; and his reverence and admiration for the playwright is clear to see in his performance and treatment of the role. While the excellent prosthetics and make-up bring Shakespeare’s likeness to the screen, Branagh delivers a thoughtful yet somewhat powerful portrayal that is slow-burning but effective.
Branagh’s performance is both supported and elevated by those of Kathryn Wilder and Lydia Wilson as his daughters, and the ever-charming presence of Judi Dench as Shakespeare’s wife, Anne.
As enchanting as their performances may have been, Ian McKellen’s turn as Henry Wriothesley is an absolute scene-stealer; he brought the commanding power and presence of a theatre stage to the big screen. Regardless of whether you enjoy this film or not, McKellen’s performance is one you will not forget easily.
Visually, this film is everything that we have come to expect from a strong period piece. The atmospheric shots of the English countryside and exquisite costume design are almost characters in their own right. It’s also a rather nice touch that many of the candle-lit scenes are purely that; filmed with no set lights just candle light.
While the pacing of this film is slow, it feels deliberately so and offers a sort of ‘Sunday drive’ feel to the viewing experience. As with the subject matter itself, I know that this film will not be to everyone’s taste but as always, I urge you all to give it a chance. You may surprise yourself.