All is True is the kind of movie that gets ignored in the summer. Not everyone in existence wants to watch a film about Shakespeare making peace with his life. Hell, there are portions of the population that will take issue over the leading ladies’ giddiness over learning how to write. So where does that leave a movie like this?
Kenneth Branagh is still the master Shakespearean performer living today. Judi Dench is up there too, but Branagh is the one actively keeping the Bard in the mainstream. Pairing the two together is a stroke of genius. However, it means that the rest of the younger cast pales in comparison. It’s true that it’s hard being the offspring of genius, but I often felt the movie dragged and kinda died when focusing on the daughters.
Hell, the first time I watched the movie…I forgot Sir Ian McKellan was in the movie. He plays an upper class patron that has the early 17th century of a Pitch off. Before Anna Kendrick showed up in a Tardis, the film is back to what drives the majority of the story. Since the Globe Theater burned down, Shakespeare is dwelling on the mistakes of his life. The ghost of his dead son haunts him, as others question the time he spent writing away from his family.
When the larger Shakespeare clan is paired together, the women reveal something. While true of the time, they exist to feed on the scraps of Shakespeare’s profits and career. The daughters squabble over getting married in time to claim inheritances and better themselves. Anne knows she’s protected by her husband’s pension, but she leaves her daughters to fend for themselves. It’s pretty brutal.
So why all of the negative early talk?
The rest of the film is what invites the dismay. When you analyze Shakespeare’s final years, you find a mix of two things. Those things being conjecture and limited records. As Shakespeare’s life ended, he had a hard time living away from London. The country life didn’t stimulate him and he often had trouble relating to his family. Other than that, the film makes melodrama to keep the action moving forward.
No one cares about strife that didn’t exist for a young married couple or how you could be fined for not attending church. It’s fluff to get the film to feature length. Honestly, I feel like there was a Playhouse 90 style show in the mix here. Unfortunately, this story hit a certain part of Branagh’s brain and he shot the entire thing independently last year. While it was quickly shown to qualify for the Oscars, it went ignored in America until this weekend.
Sony Pictures Classics is staging a limited roll-out and I think that might be too much. This entire affair reeks of something that should’ve gone straight to PBS or Netflix. I love William Shakespeare and Branagh, but you’re fighting for crumbs at this point. All is True, but all isn’t interesting.