All Is True chronicles the mysterious final three years of William Shakespeare’s life and has an accomplished all-star cast including Dame Judy Dench (from left) as Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, director Sir Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare and Sir Ian McKellen as the Earl of Southampton. Photo submitted

All is True: a charming look at Shakespeare’s later years

The Williams Lake Film Club is excited to bring All is True to the lakecity on Friday, November 1

Williams Lake Film Club

Special to The Tribune

The Williams Lake Film Club is excited to bring All is True to the Gibraltar Room on Friday, November 1st at 7 p.m.

If you think of Shakespeare and film, probably the first name that comes to mind is five-time Oscar nominee, Sir Kenneth Branagh. His adaptations include, among others, Henry VIII, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. He’s back focusing on the Bard once again, but this time the subject is not a play adaption, but rather a film that takes creative license to explore the last three years of Shakespeare’s life. In All is True, Branagh both stars as Shakespeare and directs.

Little is known about the last three years of Shakespeare’s life, and the facts we do have start as the basis for the film. The year is 1613, and during a performance of his final play, Henry VIII, Shakespeare’s beloved Globe Theatre in London is burned to a crisp.

In fact, All is True is the alternate title of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. At a loss, and sworn off writing, Shakespeare retreats to his place of birth, Stratford-Upon-Avon, to reunite with his wife Anne Hathaway (in a fabulous understated performance by Dame Judy Dench), and his daughters, Susanna (Lydia Wilson) and Judith (Kathryn Wilder).

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Their reception is not the welcome he was hoping for, and they seem hardly thrilled at his return. His wife is frosty, and treats him as a house guest, whereas his daughters resent his prolonged absence of twenty years. Meanwhile, Shakespeare is preoccupied with mourning over the death of their only son, Hamnet, who passed away at the age of 11 many years earlier. While Anne and her daughters mourned Hamnet long ago, they can only be exasperated by his obsessive grieving all these years later.

Ben Elton – a long time writer of the British comedy Blackadder – has created a mostly compelling screenplay of family drama, sprinkled with dry humour, and presents us with a portrait of a man struggling to come to terms with the meaning of his life. All is True takes substantial creative license in dramatizing those years, but ultimately Elton has penned a plausible and compelling tale based on what little is known, much in the same way Shakespeare did in his plays.

The story has plenty going on. His daughter Judith marries a man with an illegitimate child, while his other daughter Susanna is taken to court for adultery, which slanders the family name. The screenplay shines a spotlight on the women in Shakespeare’s life, and the inequalities of living in a patriarchal society for women at that time.

Branagh does a marvelous job of bringing Shakespeare to the screen, and with a fake nose, a bald domed head and beard, he looks the part. His strength is that he portrays Shakespeare as a man with flaws, a believable character who despite his success is plagued by insecurities.

Judi Dench provides Anne Hathaway with a steely common sense and is a joy to behold. Sir Ian McKellen also makes a magnificent appearance as the Earl of Southampton. Additionally, the film is beautiful to look at and was mostly shot in the Stratford area. The costumes are excellent, as is the cinematography. All interior shots were filmed by natural light or candlelight.

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As Peter Travers, in his Rolling Stone review notes, “…[Branagh’s] real achievement lies in capturing the internal life of an aging genius who claims that he’s lived so long in fictional worlds of his own imagining that he’s ‘lost sight of what is real.’ Branagh’s performance is a triumph of ferocity and feeling that shuns Shakespeare the literary rock star to find the flawed, touchingly human man inside.”

General admission tickets are $12 and student and seniors (65+) pay $10. Advance tickets are for sale at the Open Book and will also be available for purchase at the door.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m.

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