Anonymous is a 2011 film written by John Orloff and directed by Roland Emmerich. It stars Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Sebastian Armesto, Edward Hogg, Joely Richardson, Jamie Campbell Bower, Rafe Spall, Xavier Samuel, Derek Jacobi, and Amy Kwolek). It was released on October 28.
While the the possibility of Shakespeare's fraudulence is the movie poster's tagline, the real story is the maneuvering of the Cecils and the various Earls to choose Queen Elizabeth's (Vanessa Redgrave in her older years) successor. The plays themselves are used by Edward in the hopes of convincing Elizabeth to name the Earl of Essex (Sam Reid) as her successor over James I of Scotland (James Clyde). Then there is the issue of the identities of the various illegitimate children that Elizabeth has birthed over the years.
The film rewinds further when we see a young Edward (Jamie Campbell Bower) accepted as a ward of William Cecil, the father of Robert (David Thewlis, with plenty of spare time now that Harry Potter has wrapped up). Edward is eventually convinced to marry his daughter Anne (Amy Kwolek in her younger years, Helen Baxendale in her older years), though he has romantic feelings for Queen Elizabeth (Joely Richardson). Actions in this period have huge repercussions in the later years.
The only real problem I had with this film was keeping all of the names and titles of the characters correct as the film bounced from one decade to the next (time shifts that often happen without notice). Once I got past the confusion and understood who was whom, it was fine. While I'm not convinced at all of the idea that Shakespeare didn't really write those plays, I found this to be an intriguing film nonetheless.
Interesting fact #1: Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson are mother and daughter in real life, and they both play the same character (Queen Elizabeth) in this film.
Interesting fact #2: This was the rare period-piece film where the characters are shown to have have imperfect teeth.
As is usually the case with period pieces, the cast was well put together. Rafe Spall's comedic turn seems almost out of place in this film, as every other actor wears their permanent serious-face (though it is serious for a reason, and it ultimately works for the film). The sets (especially the globe Theatre) are fantastic. There's enough drama, romance (though that romance isn't looked back on so fondly near the end of the film), action, and even a few comedic moments backed into the two hour and ten minute run time to keep it interesting. It's a surprising directorial turn for Roland Emmerich, who is most known for disaster films such as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012.