Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
2018. . Screenplay by . Cinematography by . Produced by , , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .,
Following the burning down of the Globe Theatre, owing to a stage mishap during a performance of Henry VIII, William Shakespeare retires from writing and London life and moves back to Stratford where his wife Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) and daughters have long lived without his regular presence. His home is haunted by his beloved late son Hamnet, who was taken by plague when he was a child, his eldest daughter Susanna is married to a Puritan man who makes her miserable, while his younger unmarried daughter Judith is consumed by bitterness over the fraught relationship she shares with her father. As he confronts his grief and regrets over things he left undone in the years that he spent focused on his glittering theatrical life, Shakespeare (played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs, doing both in a ridiculous nose) must maintain his family’s honour in light of his provincial neighbours’ small-minded gossip while also learning the truth about many assumptions he has made about those closest to him. This elegantly paced chamber piece aims to give the greatest writer in the English language his own Gods and Monsters, focusing on the years of inactivity as a way of showing what happens to creative minds when they choose to avoid creating: he puts his efforts into gardening in lieu of writing, and the failure of this transference leads to the drudging up of a great deal of misery with his relatives. Dench gives an exquisite performance in a thankless role and there’s a general feeling of intelligent thoughtfulness in the air, but the actual plotting is not in the least bit interesting or revealing. Given that much of the screenplay is writer Ben Elton’s own inference, it should be a more contemplative movie; an imaginative meditation on just how valuable it is to be the greatest writer in the English language if your wife is pissed off that you’re never home would make far more sense than a straightforward biography whose details must be invented. By the time you reach the Bard’s final days, one’s patience with a film whose content is rarely deeper than a History Channel reenactment has been taken past its limit, but the photography is stunning, there’s an enchanted glow to the interior scenes in which few characters inhabit big spaces, the lighting achieved solely by actual candles.