Movie Review: Anonymous

Anonymous brings a very speculated upon issue to light, although this particular mystery will never really be put to rest. The authenticity of William Shakespeare can be questioned, but his name is still carved into history as the greatest writer to have lived. Whether or not any of these theories are true, Anonymous tells a very different story of William Shakespeare.

The story begins in modern-day, following an older man headed towards a theater. The play that night? Anonymous. So, the older gentleman turns out to be the narrator, who leads us into the play/movie/experience? From that point on, we’re thrust into 16th century England. Anonymous takes place in several times at once: a modern-day theater, after the death of Edward De Vere, the midlife of De Vere, and the childhood of De Vere. While taking place over so many timelines, Anonymous is able to avoid becoming confusing or muddled.

It is focused on an unsuccessful playwright, Ben Johnson (Sebastion Armesto), who becomes entrusted to publishing the works of Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans).After some personal struggles and uncertainty, the credit for De Vere’s plays are taken by the drunken, illiterate actor, William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall). The real entertainment doesn’t come from the mere publishing and performing of De Vere’s plays, but from the drama, romance and political intrigue that inspire and follow his writings. Ranging from attempted murder to incest, battles for the crown to secret romances, Anonymous brings a lot to the table.

When it comes to immersing an audience in an environment, Anonymous leaves nothing to be desired. Being a movie that is set in the 16th Century England, the costumes, dialogue and sets are all very appropriate. Yet, this film exceeds at each technical aspect, without becoming tacky about it. The costumes don’t appear to be silly, frivolous garments, but seem completely natural while you watch the movie. The dialogue never becomes boring or incomprehensible, keeping you from having those horrible “High School English Class” flashbacks. The sets never ceased to amaze me, seamlessly blending the large CGI sets with the close-quarter stages.

I have to tell you, Anonymous had some of the best digital effects I’ve seen. Thankfully, these effects were used to draw me into the film, instead of attempting to dazzle me with aliens and fake blood. While the score to the film may have been forgettable, it certainly didn’t detract from the viewing experience. Mostly a mix of strings and long-held chords, the film’s score is quite moody and dramatic. But, left on its own, Thomas Wander and Harold Kloser crafted a soundtrack to nap time.

Not a single actor or actress dropped the ball in Anonymous. Rhys Ifans gave the best performance I’ve seen from him, Rafe Spall had me hating Shakespeare after the film ended, and after some well deserved skepticism, Joely Richardson did a great job portraying Young Queen Elizabeth I. Also, something worth noting, Vanessa Redgrave plays Queen Elizabeth I and her daughter Joely Richardson plays the Young Queen Elizabeth I. A fantastic touch that truly made one believable character out of two actresses. With every technical aspect being near perfect, the performances from the lead roles of Anonymous made it an altogether impressive film.

If you would rather not read a rant criticizing the reason why some viewers dislike this film, please skip the following paragraph.

Now, there are plenty of critics and audience goers that will hate this movie all based on the idea behind the main plot. In Anonymous, Edward De Vere wrote the plays of Shakespeare. Spoilers. While there are mountains of evidence stacked against this theory, this is what the movie is about. So, if you can’t put on your big boy pants and watch a movie, then see Anonymous anyway. The execution of this film is fantastic. I don’t care if you disagree with the theory, just leave your history book at home and enjoy the entertainment offered by Anonymous.

This concludes my rant, thank you.

I can easily say that sitting through a two-hour film about Shakespeare has never been this easy. Except for the lackluster score, Anonymous delivers an intriguing, exciting experience. I’m afraid that it may become one of the most underrated films of the year. Whether you find the theory behind Anonymous believable or not, you can’t ignore the fact that it is beautifully shot, acted and displayed. I hope that more people can judge the film on its entire presentation, not just the conspiracy.

I give Anonymous 4.5 “Horrible Realizations” out of 5

By Blake Edwards


About Blake

Hi...I'm Blake and I'm a Cinephile. I've been this way since I can remember, although the environment I grew up in certainly contributed to my condition. As much as I love writing about films, I hope you all know that I write this for you. Look at me, Readers. It's all for you!

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