Get ready for a raft of Branagh productions in the coming months with Sleuth and The Magic Flute on the way. This Shakespeare adaptation boasts a fantastic cast, great locations and great direction, and the only let down is the Bard himself... with a light fluffy story which although not bad, fails to make the best of the players on view.
The story follows a group of disparate individuals who for various reasons find themselves escaping into an enchanted forest. Rosalind (Howard), the daughter of the banished Duke, is raised with her cousin Celia (Garai) at the court of Duke Frederick (Blessed), her evil uncle. She falls in love with Orlando (Oyelowo) but both face death and are forced to escape after a few fleeting moments together. To avoid detection Rosalind dresses as a man and upon their arrival in the forest, they happen upon Orlando and his manservant, who are fleeing the wrath of Orlando's eldest brother (Lester). Orlando fails to recognise Rosalind, who now goes by the name Ganymede, and so the cousins decide to test Orlando’s affections and in the process reunite the warring factions.
The plot is simplistic, and yet remains unfamiliar especially compared to the other works of Shakespeare. This is very much in the comedy mould of work, but there are still a couple of very well placed observations in the story including the famous take on melancholy as delivered by Jaques (Kline). The stars are all fantastic, and the pairing of Romola Garai and Bryce Dallas Howard is inspired as they not only look similar enough to play cousins but also have a great chemistry and energy to their scenes. In fact, the main problem is suspending ones belief to allow for the fact that the attractive and feminine Rosalind instantly becomes a cheeky farm boy by putting up her hair and wearing an ill-fitting cap.
It’s a minor quibble in reality, the film itself zips along and the characters are funny when required and romantic in equal measure. This may not be the substantial feast it would like to be, but it sure is entertaining... and you can’t really knock a film that manages to keep the decibel levels respectable despite TWO turns from Brian Blessed!