August 12, 2019  (Web Review)

All Is True

Sony, 101 min., PG-13, DVD: $25.99, Blu-ray: $24.99, Aug. 13

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Although Kenneth Branagh’s film is ostensibly about Shakespeare’s final years when he had retired from theatrical work in London to be with his family, the emphasis in All Is True is actually on makeup and landscapes—the fake nose and hairpieces required to make Branagh the spitting image of the Bard as portrayed in contemporary paintings, coupled with pervasive shots of the idyllic countryside. The title is deliberately ironic: virtually nothing is known of Shakespeare’s years back home, so the narrative is almost entirely made up. The premise finds Shakespeare gloomily ruminating on the death of his beloved son Hamnet, who died years earlier in his father’s absence. The cause of death is listed as plague, but Shakespeare has doubts. He also has other problems on his plate: his wife (Judi Dench) is used to getting along without him, his spinster younger daughter (Kathryn Wilder) is angry that he has ignored her, and his married older daughter (Lydia Wilson) will be falsely accused of infidelity. As the Earl of Southampton (a haughty proponent of Shakespeare’s genius), Ian McKellen briefly livens up the action, and ultimately all is well that ends well, but much time in this overly reverential and sluggish film is devoted to Shakespeare’s determination to plant a garden in Hamnet’s honor—a decidedly non-dramatic plot strand. Optional. (F. Swietek)