All is True Review

All is True Poster

Kenneth Branagh has built his career on Shakespearean films. Either as an actor, director, or both, Kenneth Branagh is easily one of the most well-known Shakespearean actors working today. With All is True, this is the first time that Branagh is playing the man himself. But does that mean that All is True will be as good as his other Shakespearean films?

In a way it does. Shakespearean films aren’t digestible at all, but All is True is serviceable as a partially entertaining inside look at the final years of Shakespeare’s life.

All is True follows William Shakespeare’s life after his retirement in 1610.

All is True - Sir Kenneth Branagh

Even though All is True sounds like a generic title, there actually is a viable reason for it. In a way, the film feels like a reality show. If you’ve seen a lot of trashy reality television then you know there’s not much storyline in it. All you’ll find is just a lot of drama and scandals. That essentially is about. William Shakespeare lived a nutty life after his retirement in 1610. It’s a life that’s not as peaceful as he would like.

And like a reality television series, the film is full of unlikeable characters too. Shakespeare’s daughters live a life of privilege, so of course, they’re just a little bratty and self-indulgent. Since there are no true villains in this film, it only makes sense that these characters are their own worst enemy. This is why All is True is such a drag. Regardless, All is True has a number of heartwarming moments and witty moments. Unfortunately, all of those witty moments are in the trailer.

At the same time, the film has a lot of issues with pacing. Some scenes have long establishing shots that simply add length to a scene. This is typically fine when there’s a slow burn to the film. However, there are some subplots that end as soon as they’re introduced. So the film feels disjointed because of it.

All is True - Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh

As bad as the pacing is, at least the cinematography and production design are spectacular. The cinematography is very reminiscent of Kurosawa’s use of long lenses. Branagh and Zac Nicholson keeps all the subjects in focus and frame the group in a fluid way. It’s a very similar technique that Kurosawa uses in Seven Samurai. In addition, the production design seemingly transports you to 15th century England.

Kenneth Branagh has made a number of Shakespeare films in the past but this is the first time that he’s playing the man himself. Branagh took great care in portraying the man whose work he continually adapts. He gives Shakespeare some emotional depth since he’s continually haunted by the death of his only son. In a way, it’s like life imitating art.

Dame Judi Dench gives a very one-note performance as Shakespeare’s wife, Anne. Even during the film’s most emotional scenes, Dench doesn’t show much emotion at all. Whether this is what Branagh had in mind or whether this was Judi Dench’s performance remains to be seen. Either way, it’s still a very flat and disappointing performance.

Overall, All is True is a beautiful yet stale adaptation of William Shakespeare’s final years. There are instances where the film is witty and heartfelt, but they are few and far between.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

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