All Is True Parent Guide
An earnestly produced drama whose stellar cast deserves a more convincing plot.
Parent Movie Review
Director Kenneth Branagh deserves credit for attempting the impossible – trying to get inside the mind of William Shakespeare, the greatest English writer of all time. That he endeavors to do so in a rather unsatisfactory film is disappointing but perhaps not surprising.
All Is True opens in 1613. The Globe Theatre has burned to the ground and William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) returns to his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. Having spent the better part of three decades rising to the top of the theatrical world of London, Shakespeare is a virtual stranger to his family and is welcomed by them with chilly detachment. Clearly, this is not to be a comfortable retirement in the bosom of his family. Will is still mourning the loss of Hamnet, his only son, who died seventeen years ago. His wife, Anne (Judi Dench), treats him as a respected guest – and insists he sleep in the guest room. His daughter, Susannah (Lydia Wilson) is married to an inflexible, autocratic Puritan (Hadley Fraser) and his other daughter, Judith (Kathryn Wilder), is nursing hurt, grief and rage over the death of her twin brother and her father’s lifelong underappreciation of her. Then a townsman accuses Susannah of adultery and is sued for slander. When Judith exposes long-buried family secrets, Will is shaken to the core.
If you think the plot sounds like a cable TV psychodrama, you’re not far wrong. Although some of the events have a basis in history, much of the story is pure invention. And it feels like some of it has been inserted into the narrative for shock value; not to illuminate either Shakespeare’s character or legacy.
It is particularly disappointing that the plot is so weak because the acting is so wonderful. All Is Lost features a thespian dream team. Sir Kenneth Branagh is arguably the greatest living Shakespearean actor and his passion and respect for the bard comes through in every scene. Dame Judi Dench portrays Anne as a sturdy, practical woman whose straightforward manner covers long-buried hurt and a love never quite extinguished. And Sir Ian McKellan plays the visiting Earl of Southampton with world weary elegance. Listening to his character recite sonnets with Shakespeare is a joy for anyone who enjoys hearing the bard’s words so beautifully spoken.
Given its subject, it’s obvious All Is True is not geared towards young viewers. Older teens and anyone else who enjoys historical drama and the words of Shakespeare are more likely to be interested in this production. It has few content issues aside from some profanity, implied sexual activity, and conversations about infidelity or possible homosexual relationships. The content is unlikely to trouble most viewers; they are more likely to be irked by the liberties the plot takes with history. While reflecting on his life, Will says, “I’ve lived so long in imaginary worlds I think I’ve lost sight of what is real, what’s true.” Unfortunately, it seems the same could be said of this film. While it is flawlessly acted, and at times compelling, it doesn’t feel true.Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellan. Running time: 101 minutes. Theatrical release June 7, 2019. Updated June 20, 2019
Watch the trailer for All Is True
All Is True
Rating & Content Info
Why is All Is True rated PG-13? All Is True is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements, suggestive material and language.
Violence: A main character yells at family members on more than one occasion. A doctor wears blood spattered clothes and mentions a woman died in childbirth.
Sexual Content: A married woman is accused of infidelity (“fornication”) and is called a whore. Her accuser is charged with slander. A sexual relationship is implied between two unmarried characters. A woman is pregnant, out of wedlock. Two men recite poems to each other in a coded conversation about homosexuality. Women are under pressure to have children.
Profanity: There are approximately 13 swear words and coarse expressions. There might have been a sexual expletive but the character’s diction wasn’t clear.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters drink wine or ale but not to excess.
Page last updated June 20, 2019
All Is True Parents' Guide
The genius of Shakespeare – producing the greatest body of plays in the English language, not to mention scores of sonnets and other poems despite an unexceptional education and limited life experience – has led people to speculate that William Shakespeare didn’t actually write all the works attributed to him. The Shakespearean authorship controversy has raged for over two centuries, with multiple other authors suggested. Essayist Sir Francis Bacon; Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford; writer Christopher Marlowe; and dramatist William Stanley, Earl of Derby have all been suggested as possible authors. It has even been suggested that Shakespeare’s plays were written by a woman. What do you think about the controversy? Do you think it even matters?
Shakespeare and Southampton recite one of his sonnets to each other. Controversy has raged for centuries over the identity of the dark lady and the beautiful young man in the sonnet cycle. Do you have a favorite Shakespearean sonnet? Why?
In the film, Shakespeare’s daughter Judith is bitter because she has never learned to write. Why was the education of women considered so unimportant in the 17th century? Female writers in her day often published under a false name or that of a male relative. Even today, female authors find it easier to get published if they use a male name. Why do you think that is the case?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
To appreciate the scope of Shakespeare’s writing, get a copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Any compilation will do.
If you want to dig deeply into Shakespeare’s works and want an insightful guide on the journey, check out Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: Invention of the Human.
The Shakespeare Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK provides an encyclopedic look at the bard’s life, delivered in bite-sized pieces.
Shakespeare had an unmatched flair for witty insults. To make his epithets your own, take a look through Barry Kraft’s Shakespeare Insult Generator: Mix and Match More than 150,000 Insults in the Bard’s Own Words.
Shakespeare’s language might be over the heads of most kids, but his stories can be enjoyed by young readers. Usborne’s Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare brings simplified text and vibrant illustrations together to give youngsters a great introduction to six of his plays. Marcia Williams also provides a brightly illustrated compilation in Tales from Shakespeare.
Related home video titles:
Kenneth Branagh stars as the titular monarch in Shakespeare’s Henry V (and Judi Dench also appears). A gritty battlefield tale, this history play features a famous call to battle, which is impressively delivered by Branagh.
One of Branagh’s finest Shakespearean productions is Much Ado About Nothing. This buoyant adaptation of one of the bard’s best loved comedies features Branagh as Benedict matching wits with Beatrice, played by his then-wife Emma Thompson. The chemistry between the pair is undeniable and their comic timing is impeccable.
Branagh takes on the iconic title role in Hamlet. Set in the 19th century, Branagh uses lavish sets and a rock-solid cast (including Robin Williams!) to great effect.