All Is True (DVD) – Movie Review
Follow Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Duration: 101 minutes

All Is True (DVD) – Movie Review

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Good: Acting, extras
Bad: Slow moving
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Rating: 8.0/10 (2 votes cast)

William Shakespeare is to this day one of the – if not the – greatest playwrights in the history of the English language. Even though his plays are famous all over the world, not that much is known about his private life. Specifically the last years of his life, when he retired back to Stratford-upon-Avon, away from his success in London, are not very documented. One might argue that they probably weren’t that exciting either, and therefore not really interesting, but Sir Kenneth Branagh, renown Shakespeare actor, and director might disagree, as he decided to dedicate a whole film to these last three years of Shakespeare’s life: All is True.

The film starts in 1613, right after the Globe Theatre in London burns down to the ground. Supposedly, a canon that was fired during the performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, which caused the roof to catch fire. William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh), touched by these events, retires and goes back to Stratford-upon-Avon, to his wife Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) and his two daughters.

The adaptation to being a husband and father isn’t easy. Shakespeare used to run away from family life, so much so that even his wife treats him as a guest now. He’s back now though, trying to find new purpose in his life, and getting to know his children and his wife again. In doing so, he has to fight old demons, and face the fact that his only son, Hamnet, died of illness while he was away making a career in London. He didn’t even make it to the funeral, and thus he never got to say goodbye to his talented son.

Hamnet’s twin sister Judith (Kathryn Wilder) still lives at home, and as she’s growing thirty soon, her parents have given up on her ever getting married. She does, however, but soon, both she and her older sister Susanna (Lydia Wilson) are involved in scandals regarding their marriage, and it’s hard for Shakespeare to bear. Luckily his friend the Earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen), for whom he wrote a lot of sonnets, pays him a visit, which quite brightens his spirits, but here too, there are some things he has to face.

While there have already been made quite a few films about William Shakespeare, none of them have really touched the last part of his life. Not that much is known about it, and thus it might not seem so interesting, certainly compared to his glory days in London. Nonetheless, Kenneth Branagh saw something in it, enough to make a whole film. We were quite curious to see what this renown Shakespeare connoisseur would make of it, certainly because he had to fill in quite a lot of the gaps in history himself. The result is an unusual film, with a story that has a much slower pace than any other film we are used to nowadays, yet the different filming techniques give the whole quite an unusual vibe. All indoor nighttime scenes, for example, are lit only by candlelight, drawing you more into the conversations and really giving you the idea that you are there, that cold dark night around the fireplace in Shakespeare’s home.

Kenneth Branagh made a creditable attempt to bring Shakespeare’s last years to the big public, be it with a story that isn’t completely historically correct, and where he had to fill in the gaps himself. One might argue that this way, the story doesn’t have much value, but on the other hand, it is composed after lots of research, and therefore quite plausible. The whole thing looks and feels quite different than an average film, but for those who are willing to dive in, it is quite worth it nonetheless.

When it comes to acting, this film is quite fantastic. The lead roles are performed by Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian McKellen, one by one amazing actors who have proven their worth many a time already. Kenneth Branagh is sheer unrecognizable as William Shakespeare, it’s really only his voice and his bright blue eyes that give him away. His acting is simply magnificent. Judi Dench plays the part of Anne Hathaway, a character less flamboyant than those we are used from her, yet her performance is stunning and shows once again what a great actress she is.

There are quite a lot of special features included in this DVD release. There’s a Q&A with Kenneth Branagh, which is quite lengthy, but really worth watching, as you’ll get to know a whole lot about why he wanted to make the film and how it all came along. There’s a behind the scenes, where you can see how Branagh was transformed to Shakespeare, among other things. Another very interesting feature is ‘Visiting Stratford: the story behind All is True’, where you will be guided by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust around Stratford.


All is True is a film that is certainly very interesting to a certain kind of public, yet it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. The story moves quite slowly, not that much actually happens throughout the film, and the filming techniques are quite different than what we are used to these days. This different approach did appeal to us though, and we would dare say that, if you are not afraid of a film that looks quite different than your average film, and you want to know some more about Shakespeare (be it only a plausible story and not a factual one), this one is one to keep an eye out for.

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All Is True (DVD) - Movie Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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