A look at the final days in the life of renowned playwright William Shakespeare.
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to William Shakespeare in retirement, then wonder no longer…Kenneth Branagh directs and stars as the great bard who, after fire destroys his beloved Globe Theatre in 1612, returns home to Stratford on Avon to plant a garden and contemplate his legacy.
His wife Anne, (played by Judi Dench) has raised their two daughters Susanna and Judith, and only now does Shakespeare allow himself to grieve the loss of their 11 year old son Hamnet (Judith’s twin brother), and ponder the implications of leaving behind no male heirs.
Branagh is clearly at home in this world of rich language and period costumes, and his performance along with Sir Ian McKellen who pops by for a visit as the 3rd Earl of Southampton is spot on.
The film explores the puritanical nature of English life in that era, and Shakespeare, having lived much of his life inside his imagination, struggles with the challenges of human relationships. Some of the details in the film are fact, while others are speculative, but nothing seems too farfetched, and given Branagh’s intimacy with classic Shakespearean material throughout his career, I’d have to surmise he is a devotee. Writer Ben Elton has also paired with Branagh on a BBC TV series inspired by Shakespeare called Upstart Crow, and their collaboration on this film certainly pays off.
There’s a great line towards the end as Will reminisces with a fellow writing pal, who assures him that returning home to the bosom of his family after conquering England is a rare feat to treasure.
3 & ½ Stars – A Splendid Shakespearean Bio-Drama