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Ciné Sunday: All Is True

Kenneth Branagh

There is no filmmaker better suited to bring a story about the life of William Shakespeare to the big screen than Sir Kenneth Branagh. As an actor and director, throughout his long career, Branagh has had a special affinity with and talent for the famous bard’s work and he approaches this tribute to the great man’s final years with sensitivity, grace and gentle humour.

"...quality British filmmaking at its very best."

Working from a script written by Ben Elton, All Is True begins in 1613 as an ageing Shakespeare returns home to Stratford following a disastrous performance of his final play Henry VIII, where a cannon misfired, causing the playwright’s beloved Globe Theatre to burn down. The long absent genius receives a lukewarm reception from his family – older wife Anne (Dame Judi Dench) and adult daughters Susanna (Lydia Wilson) and Judith (Kathryn Wilder). Now a man of leisure, the retired bard fills his days with less literary pursuits, notably gardening. But other concerns soon come to occupy his time – a local dispute, and aspersions on Susanna, stemming from the religious tensions in an England where the Puritans are on the rise. He also receives a visit from the Earl of Southampton (Sir Ian McKellen), believed by some to be the inspiration for Shakespeare’s love poetry.

Elton, known more for his broad comedy, brings a more melancholy and insightful tone to this, imagining what it must have been like to live with such artistic talent, especially at the ebb of an illustrious career. It goes without saying that Dench and McKellen are terrific but the real star here is Branagh, who brings a depth of pathos and warmth to this role he was born to play; a true joy to watch. All Is True is quality British filmmaking at its very best.