Movie Review – Mr. Holmes (2015)

Director: Bill Condon

Stars: Sir Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Hiroyuki Sanada

It’s been years since the famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes (McKellan), has left the business and retired to tend to his bees. However, as the past begins to fade from his aging mind he takes a trip to Japan in the hope of finding a rare herb to stimulate his mental faculties. While he remembers the past, he forms a bond with his housekeepers’ son Roger (Parker).

I’m a huge Holmes fan and I’ve been anticipating this movie since I first heard about it. Let me assure you, it doesn’t not disappoint. While it’s a far cry from the recent big screen efforts starring Robert Downey Jr., and the explosive BBC adaptation, Mr. Holmes offers a quiet, meditative look at the detective in an understated, yet powerful, character study.

It’s a period in Holmes’ life that hasn’t been covered much before, and this gives it more of a fresh feeling than some other adaptations. There’s no Watson, although he does play a large part in the story and we do get a sense of the strong friendship that existed between him and Holmes. There’s plenty of detective work but where the film shines is in the dynamic between Holmes, Roger, and Roger’s mother (Linney). Roger is fascinating by the eccentric Holmes, although his mother knows that Holmes is nearing death, and has to try and prepare for a future away from him. Holmes is a little embittered and keeps himself to himself, but through Roger he finds a kindred spirit and a chance to have the facsimile of the type of relationship that has eluded him.

While the movie is slow-paced at first, I found I was enraptured during the last third as it offered a meditation on loneliness and gave a glimpse into the emotional core of the character. It spoke to me on a deep level as I have struggled with loneliness too, and some regrets regarding relationships and how I have prioritised other things over them (as I’m sure most people have). Parker is charming as Holmes’ protege, and there is one scene in particular that is emotionally harrowing, as Holmes urges Roger to apologise to his mother over some unkind comments. McKellan really brings his A-game and as scandalous as this may be to fans of The Lord of the Rings, this is the role in which I have most enjoyed his performance.

There are some cute references to other parts of the Holmes mythos, including a pleasing cameo from Nicholas Rowe, who played Sherlock Holmes in Young Sherlock Holmes.

Mr. Holmes is a respectful look at a beloved character and offers something different than the other adaptations currently circling. While it is slow at first, this is actually to its benefit and the emotional payoff at the end lingered with me.

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