Friday, June 7, 2019

Shakespeare tale claims 'All is True,' but might it be a play within a play?

Way back in the late 19th century, Mark Twain allegedly coined the phrase, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story."

So, when William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) says something similar to his wife (Judi Dench) in "All Is True," it's a likely tip-off that what you get from this tale about Bard's retirement years is not necessarily how he really saw it way, way, way back in the early 1600s.

Still, director Branagh and screenwriter Ben Elton spin a decent yarn that also concludes "Family is everything" instead of "The play's the thing." Now that becomes a pointed shift in direction for the world's most famous playwright after his Globe Theater burned to the ground and sent him packing back to Stratford-upon-Avon.

After all, neither his resentful, older bride, nor his adult daughters (Lydia Wilson and Kathryn Wilder) exactly welcome him home with open arms. Real truth be told, his successes kept him in London for decades, doing who knows what else while, at best, staying inattentive to the clan back home.

Years earlier, the writer/director/producer even missed the funeral of his 11-year-old son, Hamnet (not Hamlet), whose somewhat mysterious passing haunts Will like a character from one his most famous works. So, what's a father to do but build and dedicate a garden to the boy he never really knew.

Such hard work takes time, and Shakespearean stalwart Branagh fills some of it with scandals of the day for each daughter, as well as info-filled conversations with visiting pals and patrons. Ian McKellen becomes the notable player in the latter group, as the Earl of Southhampton, a racy conversationalist who may have shared more than money or friendship with Will.

There's also some picture-perfect cinematography from Zac Nicholson ("The Death of Stalin"), whose images gleam in tandem with most of his fellow Brits in the nicely assembled cast.

Rated "PG-13": thematic elements, suggestive material and language; 1:41; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

No comments: