Review: All Is True

Score: B+

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Kathryn Wilder, Lydia Wilson

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

It's pretty safe to say Kenneth Branagh is obsessed with Shakespeare. He's directed five film adaptations, and done countless more onstage. In All Is True, he finally gets to play the Bard himself. Having seen many of his faithful and lavish versions of Shakespeare's great plays, I thought I knew what to expect. But I was wrong in the best way. All Is True is a gorgeous, moving, frequently hilarious film about regret and death.

Despite being the most famous man in all of England, William Shakespeare's return to Stratford-upon-Avon isn't exactly welcomed. Many townspeople find him snooty and sinful, while his own family isn't thrilled either. He spent much of his life in London, working non-stop and getting his love from actors, royals and paying customers. Now that's he's returned to live out his retirement with his family, he finds his family has mostly moved on. His wife Anne (Judi Dench) has him sleep in another room. His youngest daughter Susannah (Lydia Wilson) is trapped in a loveless marriage to the town doctor (Hadley Fraser), while his eldest Judith (Kathryn Wilder, truly exceptional) is a spinster filled with regret that her twin brother Hamnet died when they were kids. Will still needs to grieve, but they finished their mourning long ago.

All Is True is filled with some truly striking images, and many of its dialogue scenes are filmed in long takes. It all ads up to a sumptuous film about grappling with joy and sorrow, regretting what is lost and cherishing what you still have. Its high point comes during Ian McKellen's  cameo as Henry Wriothesley, an earl who was a friend and patron of Shakespeare's. But writer Ben Elton runs with the theory that their relationship was even deeper than that. Over wine, they share tender, heartbreaking memories of what might have been, reciting the poetry Will dedicated to Henry.

Yet the film saves its emotional gut-punch for the climax of the film, when Will learns more details about one of the most tragic events in his life. It's devastating, but helps each of the characters grow and deepen their love for each other. Even when it seems like there was nothing else for us to gain from the life and works of Shakespeare, Branagh and Elton give us one of the most powerful experiences of 2019.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.