Bill (2015)

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If you have kids and you live in Melbourne, take them to this film at ACMI in Federation Square. Made by the Horrible Histories guys, it’s very loosely-based on the story of William Shakespeare. If you know Horrible Histories, you’ll know what I mean. There are puns aplenty, multiple parts played by five or so actors and lots of quick visual and verbal jokes, some just for the grown ups. The humour is distinctly British, my favourite kind, and reminds me of Blackadder in its irreverence and dry subversion of English history.

William ‘Bill’ Shakespeare has high hopes for this talent and ambition. As lead player in the band Mortal Coil, he alienates his bandmates with his progressive ideas and mandolin solos. He turns to playwriting as his next interest, traveling to London, midst the disapprobation of his long-suffering wife, to try and make his fortune. The warm-hearted and innocent Bill is soon caught up in a Spanish plot to kill Queen Elizabeth and his skills as a writer are put to the test.

The story gently ridicules the class system and the machinations of politics. Although the details of the story are fictional, kids watching will learn about some of the key players and events in English history of that time – education by stealth. It is peppered with phrases that only exist in our language now because of Shakespeare’s plays.

To check screening times – there’s one screening a day until the end of January – check the ACMI website http://www.acmi.net.au/

Bechdel test – fail
3.5 stars

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