Mr. Holmes reunites Sir Ian McKellen with his Gods and Monsters director, Bill Condon and tells the story of an much aged Sherlock Holmes (he is supposed to be 93 in the film) as he battles the early stages of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. He tries to remember the last case he worked on about a beautiful and mysterious woman who may or may not be up to no good regarding her husband.
His house keeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) is a tired, lonely and single mother whose son, Roger (Milo Parker) is a huge fan of Mr. Holmes. Roger wants Mr. Holmes top get back into the detective business with visions that he would assist Mr. Holmes. Roger is a rather smart lad and he means well, but fails to understand what physical and mental ailments are afflicting Mr. Holmes. As the film opens, we see Mr. Holmes has returned from Japan just after World War 2. He has traveled there to find a certain plant that allegedly has regenerative properties that might be able to improve Mr. Holmes’ condition.
Mr. Holmes and Roger have one common like and that is Mr. Holmes’ bee farm and this is what brings them together as friends, as Mr. Holmes tries to piece together his past. Mrs. Munro understands their relationship but is wanting to accept a job from her sister at a hotel. Mrs. Munro knows that Mr. Holmes is not going to be around forever and only wants to secure a future for her and her son. But her options seem a bit limited and it weighs on her so sometimes, she is not always the most patient or understanding.
Mr. Holmes is a well meaning film. Director Condon and scriptwriter, Jeffrey Hatcher (based on the book by Mitch Cullin) have crafted an elegant period piece where everything looks perfect. Perfectly dressed characters, sets and production values make this version of the legendary detective beautiful to look at and the cinematography by Tobias A. Schliesser is simply gorgeous to look at. The story of Mr. Holmes is leisurely and Condon takes his time to let the story unfold. I will say that I could have done with a little less of the flashback story, but it is handled well enough that it kept me intrigued, for the most part.
The cast is terrific with McKellen playing Holmes as more of a man who is tired of life and simply wants to tend to his bees and be left alone. He is usually right on most of his observations, sometimes to a fault. Mr. Holmes seems to have grown tired of the mystique and persona that has befallen him. It seems Dr. Watson has penned the books of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson’s cases and they have embellished some of the details; most notably the REAL address of Mr. Holmes, his pipe and famous hat. All of these have been embellished so now Mr. Holmes corrects others about the details. McKellen is perfectly cast as Holmes in his final years. He is a combination of class, sophistication and intelligence with added street smarts.
I also enjoyed seeing Laura Linney in a rather plain role and she dons a convincing Irish accent as well and Milo Parker is particularly good as her son. And for added enjoyment, Carter Burwell’s score is quite befitting the time period and the mood of the film. I will say that some of the film does lag in its pacing but overall this film works primarily because of the performances which propel the story, for the most part.
This film is the exact opposite the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. versions of Sherlock Holmes. They are decent films but a lot of flash and bang for your buck. THIS version is more subtle and, as a friend pointed out to me afterwards, could have made a very good play. Mr. Holmes was released through the BBC and it could very well play on TV and still look great. There is nothing in this film to offend anyone and entire families can sit back and not worry about having all of their senses assaulted. This is a fine film and befitting of the persona of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
Mr. Holmes- ***3/4 out of 5
Mr. Holmes- Rated PG for mild language and brief implied violence
Mr. Holmes- Run Time is 104 minutes
Mr. Holmes is available on DVD and On Demand