Branagh brings Shakespeare to life in "All Is True"

Kenneth Branagh appears in a scene from "All Is True."

Kenneth Branagh and William Shakespeare is a match that always feels right, so the having Branagh play the famous playwright seems like a no brainer.

That's what we get with "All Is True" with Branagh serving as both the lead and the director. And while "True" doesn't always work it has enough moments to be effective.

"All Is True" is a speculative piece of work, focusing on Shakespeare's final days - returning to his home in Stratford after the Globe Theater burns down. With his career at a close Shakespeare looks to reconnect with his wife Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) and his two daughters Susanna (Lydia Wilson) and Judith (Kathryn Wilder). 

Returning to his family proves to be more difficult than writing a play, as Shakespeare comes to terms with the fractured relationship - doing his best to mend them in his final days.

Ben Elton's screenplay is an interesting piece of fiction - a melodrama about a man who for many years put work ahead of family. Of course in this case the man is one of the most famous writers of all-time, so seeing this extraordinary personality relegated to retracing the steps of his legacy makes for an interesting premise.

Sometimes the melodrama is a little much - even by Shakespeare's standards - but fortunately Branagh is smart behind the camera. He has the insight to let his cast lift up the material, beginning with himself. It's a nice meaty role that Branagh tackles quite well. His scenes with Dench really pack an emotional punch, with a small turn from Ian McKellen also a highlight.

Those three along are enough to lift any material. And while "All Is True" falls short of being truly memorable, Branagh, Dench, and McKellen milk enough out the material to make it worth your time.


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