Ventured out to Angelika Film Center for the first time in quite a while to catch a screening of All Is True. Although William Shakespeare left behind plenty of legal documents, concrete details regarding his day-to-day life remain exceedingly scarce. This has spawned numerous conspiracy theories concerning the “real” author behind his impressive body of work, but I prefer this more intimate, human portrait, which—much like The Bard himself—never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.
The plot begins when the playwright returns to Stratford-upon-Avon following the fiery destruction of the Globe Theatre. In many ways, the loss of his stage represents the loss of his identity; now, the legend must learn to be an ordinary man—a stranger in his own home, resented by the wife and daughters he neglected in order to pursue his career, mourning the death of a son he barely even knew. Director Kenneth Branagh tackles the material with a surprising degree of stylistic restraint, eschewing his usual sweeping camera movements in favor of painterly compositions and long takes that give the performers (including such stalwart thespians as Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen) ample room to breathe. His impeccable craftsmanship lends the movie that rare flavor of minimalism that I so greatly admire in period pieces. The narrative does occasionally veer into melodramatic territory… and I wouldn’t expect anything less from a biopic about Shakespeare’s twilight years.