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All is True


Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Kathryn Wilder, Lydia Wilson

Director: Kenneth Branagh

For the most part, this trudge through (dodgy) history is a dimly-lit (some of it shot by candlelight) chamber piece about the dwindling days of Shakespeare, following the destruction by fire of his Globe Theatre in 1616.

As Shakespeare retreats to his country estate, and local envies, Ben Elton's screenplay provides ample room for shouting and ranting from a cast headed by an almost unrecognisable Branagh as Bill the Bard, still grieving over the death years earlier of his 11-year-old son, and much perplexed by the fates of his two daughters, the one (Wilson) married to a staunchly Puritan doctor, and the other (Wilder) unmarried and nurturing a secret that festers away at the lack of fulfilment in her life.

Shakespeare's older wife Anne (Dench, putting in a ripe turn) attempts to keep a present peace, and the past in its place.

Although a long conversation between Branagh and McKellen (good though the latter is) in mid film almost sent me to sleep, by and large the drama holds up quite well, and cinematographer Zac Nicholson has a field day with widescreen rural landscapes; his conflagration shot at the beginning is also a triumph.

Ultimately it goes on a bit too long, as it lurches through a series of potential endings, and the facts do seem a shade suspect. Still, we should perhaps grant Elton a little licence, as he himself has Shakespeare say that 'I've never let the truth get in the way of a good story.'

David Quinlan

UK 2018. UK Distributor: Sony (Sony Pictures Classics). Colour by Panalux.
101 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 06 Feb 2019