This film basically questions what many have before, who wrote all the masses and masses of works credited to one William Shakespeare. This film is set within the political atmosphere of the Elizabethan Court and Lord Oxford is presented as the true author of the many works of 'William Shakespeare'. Being a Lord, writing plays wasn't really something that he was able to share with the world and so he paid an actor to pretend to write his plays in order to get them onto the stage of the famous Globe Theatre. At the same time De Vere, or Lord Oxford, has a love affair with the Queen and with her, he sires a child. This is something that turns out to be incredibly important nearer the end of the film through one of the most shocking plot twists I've ever seen.
I have to admit that the plot was not at all easy to follow and I found some scenes thoroughly confusing. There were quite a lot of scene changes in which they showed snippets from the past which involved different actors playing the younger versions of the characters and I found it a little hard to keep up with who was who. Adding to the confusion was the fact that this film was a play within a play within a play. If you can wrap your head around this, then it is rather a nice touch; however, if you get left behind, you'll probably never catch up.
On the other hand, the cast was made up of a number of brilliant actors including Jamie Campbell Bower, Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall, David Thewlis, Sir Derek Jacobi, Xavier Samuel and many more. It is a little hard to judge the actors on their merits when the plot is all over the place but I believe the actors did a good job of translating the script to screen. I do not think it was the acting that brought this film down for critics, but rather the plot line. There was some really solid acting from Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave and Jamie Campbell Bower and I believe that they really embodied their seventeenth century characters.
The best thing for me about this film was probably the costume and scenery. There were some absolutely magnificent and scenic views of 'Old' England so I suppose that's a huge thumbs up to the location scouter. In addition, the makeup, the costumes and the set were fantastic and looked very authentic adding to the credibility of this film. However, I did not like the character Shakespeare at all. Whilst the point of this movie was to show Shakespeare as a fraud, I didn't feel that the representation of his character was accurate or believable at all. I seem to remember Shakespeare even crowd surfing at one point. This is by no means a criticism of the actor, but of the way that the character Shakespeare was written in the script. His character is obnoxious and I just cannot believe that the great Shakespeare could actually have been a power-hungry actor. Again, I suppose this was the point.
All in all, this movie isn't bad at all. Whilst the plot was confusing at times, there was some brilliant acting and the effect of the visual was magnificent. This is definitely a film for English or history nerds, though this film is truly mind boggling at times so I wouldn't recommend this for those who like light hearted and simple films. If you are an English nerd, prepare for your dreams of what William Shakespeare was like to be shattered and you will probably also be a little angry that the producers even considered making a movie about a fraudulent Shakespeare. However, it is interesting to know what conspiracy theories there are surrounding the world's greatest writer.
OUT ON DVD ON THE 5TH MARCH 2012