Film Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespearean Play Filmed by Director Kenneth Branagh

by DerdriuMarriner

William Shakespeare's romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing finds its most buoyant, joyous filming in the 1993 version directed by Kenneth Branagh and his stellar cast and crew.

Much fuss comes from hearing and spreading gossip

The romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing joyfully asserts the meaning of its title as one of William Shakespeare’s (April 23, 1564? – April 23, 1616) most acclaimed, beloved, and compelling plays. Its release as a romantic comedy film brings audiences and critics together even though accolade wins are limited to Kenneth Branagh as London Film Critics’ Circle British Producer of the Year and Emma Thompson as Evening Standard British Film Awards’ Best Actress. The film indeed counts among the numerous, respected, riveting Branaghian adaptations of Shakespearean plays:
• As You Like It;
• Hamlet;
• Henry V;
• Love’s Labour’s Lost;
• Macbeth; and
• Othello.

Like the Shakespearean play, the Branaghian movie delights audiences with:
• plot complications;
• quick wit; and
• romantic endings.

Multi-talented Kenneth Branagh infuses "Much Ado About Nothing" with his joy for his craft.

Roma Fiction Fest 2009
Roma Fiction Fest 2009

Much fuss does not happen when geo-politics mesh


Action, characters, and dialogue emerge during a less troublesome period in insular Italian history, that of the Sicilian line in Spain’s Aragonese dynasty from 1298 to 1409. Restriction of Catalan-speaking culture to the court and tolerance of Sicilian customs elsewhere furnish a happy explanation for Messina’s Governor Leonato (Richard Briers) welcoming Aragon’s Prince Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) visiting for a month. Leapfrogging over the rival south peninsular regions dominated by Naples and the Papal States gives geographical reasons for Leonato’s welcoming Don Pedro’s push for:

  • Benedick (Kenneth Branagh), Lord from northeast Italy’s Padua, to marry his niece Beatrice (Emma Thompson); and
  • Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), Count from northwest Italy’s Florence, to marry his daughter Hero (Kate Beckinsale).


The shaming Hero by way of a cruelly false accusation sets in motion the underlying plot of the joyous triumph of love over all ~

"The Fainting of Hero": 1846 oil on canvas by Irish history and genre painter Alfred W. Elmore (June 18, 1815 - January 24, 1881)
Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, scene 1
Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV, scene 1

Much fuss ensues from illegitimate, legitimate sibling rivalries


Illegitimate relatives have historical roles reminiscent of a classic mystery’s guilty butler. Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother, Don John (Keanu Reeves), is the film’s and play’s mischief-maker in:

  • attempting to convince Claudio of Don Pedro’s (non-existent) ulterior motives regarding Hero; and
  • succeeding in persuading Claudio’s belief that Borachio’s (Gerard Horan) intimacy with gentlewoman Margaret (Imelda Staunton) before an open window is instead with Hero.

Many join in supporting Claudio’s humiliating and rejecting Hero as Friar Francis (Jimmy Yuill) begins the wedding ceremony.

Few other than Hero’s father, paternal Uncle Antonio (Brian Blessed), and priest know of another plot complication. Hero lives despite her purported death from heartbreak. Leonato makes Claudio promise to make amends by marrying Hero’s cousin.


Much Ado About Nothing (1993) Trailer

Uploaded on Apr 10, 2010 by TheTrailerGal ~ URL:

Much fuss furnishes happy endings for almost everyone


But hapless constable Dogberry (Michael Keaton) and headborough Verges (Ben Elton) nab Borachio and Conrade (Richard Clifford), who reveal Don John’s mischief-making. Everybody therefore observes the following day’s happy turn of events, with:

  • Benedick expecting to marry Beatrice;
  • Claudio marrying Hero;
  • Don John receiving a day’s wait to second-guess the next day’s punishment; and
  • Guests romping through Leonato’s gardens.

So the 111-minute Much Ado About Nothing -- whose PG-13 rating references bare rears -- provides many reasons for buying permanent copies for lifelong enjoyment, thanks to:

  • Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh, director, producer, screenplaywright;
  • Patrick Doyle, musician, singer as Balthazar of Sigh No More Ladies;
  • Stephen Evans and David Parfitt, producers;
  • Roger Lanser, cinematographer; and
  • Andrew Marcus, editor.


Sigh no more - Much Ado About Nothing ~ joyous finale

Uploaded on Nov 26, 2008 by miricsi ~ URL:



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Much Ado About Nothing ~ Amazon Instant Video: Rent or Buy with 1-Click®

Much Ado About Nothing
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Much Ado About Nothing: theatrical release poster ~ available via AllPosters

Much Ado About Nothing

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 03/23/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 06/16/2015

Mira, Have you read "In Search of Shakespeare" by medieval specialist Michael Wood or seen the equivalent audio-visual format from the PBS program? It's an enthralling coverage of best guesses and known facts.

Mira on 06/11/2015

I think I borrowed them from the British library and they didn't have subtitles. But I may be wrong. I'll try again. I find Shakespeare's plots to be a lot of fun, and the writing so incredible. Who was this Shakespeare, anyway?:)

DerdriuMarriner on 06/11/2015

Mira, The DVDs for English-speakers often have audio and caption options. For instance, a DVD may offer North Americans a version dubbed in Quebec or in Mexican Spanish along with the appropriate language in subtitles. Is that possible for you with Romanian or any of the other languages you know?
This week I've been trying to watch the latest filmed version of "Cymbeline" (with Ethan Hawke). Even though I know the play, it's difficult following the dialogue. It happens sometimes!
"Much Ado About Nothing" is one of my absolute favorite renditions of Avalon's Bard into English. Everything about it is joyously wonderful, and I love the choice of Keanu Reeves as the bad guy (even though surprisingly the critics criticized Kenneth Branagh for so doing).
All of Kenneth Branagh's Shakespearean movies are well worth owning for viewing (and re-viewing). I intended to review them all here and have done so with "As You Like It" (which I like very much) and "Much Ado" and still may do with "Hamlet," "Love's Labour's Lost," "Macbeth," and "Othello."

Mira on 06/11/2015

I find it hard to watch Shakespeare's plays because it's hard to follow all the words. But I will try to read the text beforehand, to have it fresh in my mind, and then watch a play or another. Thanks for the inspiration :) I love Emma Thompson and have seen some of Kenneth Branagh's plays.

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