There’s a bit of a nod-nod, wink-wink irony in the title of Kenneth Branagh’s latest exploration of the genius of William Shakespeare. All Is True refers to the alternate title of Henry VIII, the Bard’s penultimate play, which was being staged in 1613 at London’s Globe Theatre when the playhouse caught fire and burned down mid-performance. That fire is a documented fact, one of the relatively few available about the historic figure who may be the most celebrated poet and playwright of all time, but yet left precious little evidence from which later generations could reconstruct his personal history. When Branagh decided to direct a film about the last three years of Shakespeare’s life, the actor/producer’s mandate to his friend and screenwriter Ben Elton was to find a way into a tale that would hang on what little is known of the dramatist’s retirement to home and family in Stratford-on-Avon. The result is a period piece that feels oddly contemporary, like a titillating celebrity exposé that just happens to be set in Jacobean England. CONTINUE READING