Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in this passion project that chronicles the final years of William Shakespeare's life via the lens of a family drama. All Is True was written by Ben Elton (Black Adder, The Young Ones), who is also behind the significantly more light-hearted Shakespeare TV comedy series Upstart Crow.
After the Globe Theatre burns down during a production of Henry VIII (also known as All Is True), Shakespeare moves back to his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon from which his long absence has bred simmering resentment within his immediate family.
As he struggles to reconnect with wife Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) and grown daughters Judith (Kathryn Wilder) and Susanna (Lydia Wilson), Shakespeare is drawn into a local scandal and remains haunted by the death of Judith's twin brother Hamnet when the boy was just 11.
Having directed and starred-in umpteen Shakespeare adaptations, Branagh's lifelong association with The Bard can't help but inform All Is True. The actor also drafted in some fellow heavyweight Shakespearean actors in Dench and Ian McKellen, who makes a huge impact in a short amount of screen time as patron the Earl of Southampton, to whom some of Shakespeare's most romantic sonnets are dedicated.
The hefty talent on display doesn't overwhelm Branagh's clear desire to tell a grounded, human story informed both by how its subject sees himself, and in the context of his loved ones.
Shakespeare's genius and legacy are addressed, but not overly dwelled upon by the film, which is more interested in exploring his familial relationships and his lingering concerns over his social standing.
Branagh's performance is casual, soft-spoken, and only occasionally marred by some less-than-amazing facial prosthetics.
Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Ian McKellen
M (Offensive language)
A watchable curiosity that takes a determinedly personal approach to the latter years of the history's greatest