As You Like It (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Kenneth Branagh gamely continues to put Shakespeare on film, and audiences continue to ignore them. He's really up against it here: the only way you could make the spiralling absurdities of As You Like It work would be to transform it into a fast-paced comedy. Instead, Branagh has laboured over a stilted combination of 19th-century Japanese imperialism and 17th-century English pastoral, within which the romantic shenanigans of Rosalind (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Orlando (David Oyelowo) feel isolated and unengaging.

The two leads give decent performances, less endearing are the minor characters: Alfred Molina as Touchstone, Janet McTeer as Audrey and the egregious Brian Blessed in a double ducal role – the man is less an actor than a town crier. It hardly matters, for the contrivances of the plot and the sluggishness of the pace would undo better performers.

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