FILM REVIEW: All Is True. Malvern Theatres. Borderlines Film Festival.

Historians know a decent amount about Shakespeare’s final years in Stratford, not least because he filed a will and his daughters were touched by scandal.

Such matters are for the public record and on this foundation the new film, All Is True has been created.

It was not an easy retirement for England’s greatest writer; but does this topic lend itself to drama? Well, it’s hard to go wrong with Kenneth Branagh playing Shakespeare, Judi Dench appearing as Anne Hathaway and even Ian Mckellen turning up as the bard’s ageing “man crush”, the Earl of Southampton, complete with golden ringlets.

The writer is Ben Elton, of Upstart Crow fame; but this is no sitcom, although there is humour here and there. It is a beautifully filmed, autumnal study of a somewhat dysfunctional family, and a man haunted by the ghost of his long dead son. Shakespeare turns from his burning theatre and returns home to guilt and recriminations: and the sudden realisation that the chaos of life continues even if a man wishes to escape it. Branagh is superb as the ageing Shakespeare, moving and sensitively portrayed, despite a huge false nose; but the star of the film is undoubtedly Judi Dench, who is the perfect foil to Shakespeare's bouts of belated grief. She says of their lost son, Hamnet, "When he died, you wrote the Merry Wives of Windsor." It is possible to see her performance and to say, yes, that is how Anne Hathaway must have been: a no nonsense rural woman, mindful of her dignity and struggling to maintain it in the face of rumours. and the sheer bewilderment of being married to a genius.

In this respect, it all rings true in All Is True.

Screenings at Malvern until March 7

Gary Bills-Geddes.