Magazine December 20, 2021, Issue

Kenneth Branagh’s Portrait of Old Ireland

Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Jude Hill, and Lewis McAskie in Belfast (2021 Focus Features. A Comcast Company)

It’s been a curious career for Kenneth Branagh. “One for them, one for me” may be the dictum of the auteur trying to balance commerce and art, but in Branagh’s case it’s been more like “two decades for me, one decade for them,” with a career sharply bifurcated between a longer youthful phase as a fearless actor-director adapting Shakespeare for the screen and a shorter mature period as a hired gun handling forgettable high-gloss entertainments.

In his first two decades as a director, Branagh’s only major-budget project was the overwrought Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, memorable primarily because it marked his romantic transition

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This article appears as “Portrait of an Artist” in the December 20, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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