It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Very few commoners of his time are as well-documented as William Shakespeare. There seems little good reason to doubt that he wrote the plays performed under his name. If he had been an ordinary playwright, there would be no controversy over their authorship. But he was the greatest of all writers in English, in some ways the engine for the language's spread around the world, and one of the supreme artists of the human race.
There have long been those not content with his breeding. He was the son of an illiterate, provincial glover, an itinerant actor in a disreputable profession with no connections to royalty. Surely such an ordinary man could not have written these masterpieces. There is a restlessness to reassign them, and over the years, theories have sprung up claiming the real author of the plays was the Earl of Oxford, Sir Francis Bacon, the 6th Earl of Derby or Christopher Marlowe. "Anonymous" argues the case for Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
You perhaps know little enough about Shakespeare and next to nothing about the other candidates. That's no reason to avoid this marvelous historical film, which I believe to be profoundly mistaken. Because of the ingenious screenplay by John Orloff, precise direction by Roland Emmerich and the casting of memorable British actors, you can walk into the theater as a blank slate, follow and enjoy the story, and leave convinced — if of nothing else — that Shakespeare was a figure of compelling interest.
This movie cruelly stacks the deck against him. The character of Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) is drawn a notch of two above the village idiot. Witless and graceless, there is no whiff of brilliance about him, and indeed the wonder is not that this man could have written the plays but that he could articulate clearly enough to even act in some of them (about which there seems to be no doubt).