“All Is True” is a love poem, neh – a Love Sonnet – to the veritable Bard of Stratford-on-Avon. Yes, William Shakespeare is in his retirement years. He is spending these years not at Sun City West playing golf, but instead puttering around in his garden bemoaning his deceased son. His long-suffering wife and his two daughters are beset with Old Will’s presence after many, many years. For all those years, he has been living in London – writing and directing at the Globe Theater. But when it burns down, his whole life is put in disarray, and he retreats back to his humble abode. It is actually a pretty nice estate, because he has spent years being the world’s most successful playwright and poet. His patrons have lavished Shakespeare with enough to make his life very comfortable in his sunset years. Now, if he could only stop driving his family crazy…
William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) has returned to his hometown, back from being a major success in London. The theater that he had founded has burnt to the ground, and he no longer has any reason to be there. He gets back to his wife Anne (Judi Dench) and his daughters. Susanna (Lydia Wilson) is married to a Puritan, so that means she is not happily married. Daughter Judith (Kathryn Wilder) is unmarried and is considered an ‘old maid’ with a tart tongue and a shrewish attitude. Will is back and he really starts to think about his son, Hamnet. He had died nearly two decades ago, while William was in London making the theater magic happen. Shakespeare did not allow himself to grieve properly, and now the loss of his son hits him hard. That was his family legacy, in his passing down of the family name to continue the Shakespeare greatness. With his daughters, they will not retain the family name, so there is a possibility that the Shakespeare line will be snuffed out.
Wife Anne has had many years to mourn her son and will not accept that hubby Will is just now getting around to it. After all, when Hamnet died, Will was consumed with the hustle and bustle of the Globe Theater. He was too busy writing “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at the time and could not get back to see Hamnet laid to rest. Now, Shakespeare has remnants of letters and poems created by Hamnet when he was younger, and alive. There was a rough but noticeable talent in his writings, and William is mourning the loss of not only a son, but the one who could have carried on the new family tradition. But Anne is stoic and steadfast, and she knows whatever secrets that Hamnet held are also dead. Judith has some shocking news for her father, and he does not know how to begin to understand what happened, and how his son died.
During this hubbub, there is a visit to the estate by an old friend and very wealthy patron of William Shakespeare. The Earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen), who is a noble by birth and a scoundrel in nature, comes to meet his favorite British poet and playwright. The Earl never needed to put on airs or persuade people to respect him. It was his due by his heritage. Shakespeare, on the other hand, was humble and born into poverty. His father was involved in scandal and he was frowned upon. So, Shakespeare has worked mightily to polish the family name. But both of his daughters have brushes with bad reputation and gossip. So, the cycle starts over once more. When the Earl of Southampton finally leaves William to his situation, he wishes him well. He wants him to remain true to his recent work in London as a genius, and not wallow in the backwater tides of the local countryside.
Kenneth Branagh plays his man-crush William Shakespeare with an intensity and a ton of prosthetic makeup. He does wind up looking like the historical portraits of The Bard, so it is a fitting appearance. Branagh really loves him some Shakespeare. So much so that he lives to direct movies adapted from Shakespeare, or star in movies adapted from Shakespeare – or mostly star in and direct movies that are adapted from Shakespeare. Branagh finds a suitable match with Dame Judi Dench playing Anne Hathaway, the woman who married William Shakespeare. These two are wonderful on-screen and play well against each other. Along with the cameo role of the Earl of Southampton, Ian McKellen has a twinkle of mischief in his eyes as he builds up and berates Shakespeare. They also are great in the same scene.
In Phoenix, playing exclusively at the Harkins Scottsdale Camelview.