This new, gradually overwrought back-and-forth melodrama advances the theory of the actual wordsmith of William Shakespeare, including his lovely sonnets. The big surprise here may be that Roland Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow) takes on 16th Century London with a contentious credulity and soap operatic sweep. Even as he gets evocative period backing from the production and costume design departments.
Anonymous boils from scandal and political intrigue with an ensemble featuring Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis and Edward Hogg, with the former the central figure - Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. In a churning, often wrangled storyline from scribe John Orloff (A Mighty Heart) Edward forwarded his innominate writings (frowned upon by the ducats then) to a playwright played by Sebastian Armesto. This gives thespian William Shakespeare (Timothy Spall) an opportunity to present them as his own.
Orloff provides some bookending from a contemporary Great White Way with Derek Jacobi offering opening narration to glance into what will play best in specialty, art house markets. According to the screenplay, there was an amorous connection between the Earl and Queen Elizabeth (Redgrave) when they were younger (Jamie Campbell Bower and Joely Richardson. Damage control from this is being handled by William Cecil (Thewlis) and son Robert (Edward Hogg).
Mainstream filmgoers are obviously use to Emmerich showing off his skill in the disaster genre; here he gets to crank things up against the backdrop of Queen Elizabeth and the Essex rebellion against her with ardor in the presentations of what still is credited to the Bard on London stages. The premise of a fraud around the puritanical holds some early interest before surprises occur amidst arranged weddings and illegitimacy. What appears in the end to be salient isn't the composer but the undeniably sophisticated and influential compositions (rendered in a more down-to-earth fashion with richer poignancy in a celebrated drama like Shakespeare In Love).