Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in this tender, intelligent dramatisation of Shakespeare’s final years.
In 1613, a misfiring cannon during a performance of Henry VIII or ‘All Is True’ burns down the Globe Theatre, leaving Shakespeare bereft. He heads home to Stratford, where his wife Anne (Judi Dench) and unmarried daughter Judith live in the splendid home that his plays have funded. William is a distant figure, an absentee father who has spent 20 years managing his theatre at the expense of his family. Returning from his celebrated life as a playwright allows time for him to grieve for his dead son Hamnet and as scandal comes and goes around him, William wallows in Hamnet's memory, unprepared to face the truth.
Working on a relatively intimate scale after the extravagance of Murder On The Orient Express, All Is True sees Branagh benefiting hugely from dialling it down as both director and actor. Branagh’s lead provides a richly coloured, but personably modest focus, while elsewhere Dench and McKellen, as the Earl of Southampton, are quietly superb. A compassionate ode to a literary master. (Research Chris Coetsee) It will be a delight with nobody better than Branagh playing his hero ‘Shakerags’ (Kemps Jig).