Mr. Holmes

Until now I had never found the cinematic creations of Sherlock Holmes very interesting. Robert Downey Jr’s modern, action packed, version of the fictional detective is the most recent mainstream version seen on the big screen. However, Academy Award winner Bill Condon (Gods & Monsters, Kinsey) directs the most human version of the character I have seen. Based on screenwriter Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, Holmes appears as a 93-year-old man dealing with memory loss. The story creates a beautiful, slow reveal, into the quiet life of a man with an enormous career of work behind him, struggling to remember the details of a case that sealed his retirement and exile.

Having just returned from Japan, the elderly Sherlock Holmes (McKellen) still gets the whispers from passerby’s, “that’s him!”. Having tucked himself away in a small cottage by the sea, Holmes tends to his honeybees and ignores daily requests from those certain he is the only detective to solve their case. His housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Linney) is a widow with an eager young son, Roger (Parker), who spends every moment with the aging Holmes. As his memory fades, the doctor insists he slow down, but the ever ambitious and lonely Holmes pushes himself to recall the details of the final case, involving a husband and wife. It was a mistake or a realization that exiled him far away from the city and now he must connect the dots in order to find peace.

McKellen breathes life into Sherlock Holmes unlike anyone before him.

Spring comes alive with the sounds and sights of nature enveloping the Oscar nominated McKellen (The Lord of the Rings) as he returns to a lead role fully dependent on his talent as an actor. Covered in aging makeup, McKellen breathes life into Sherlock Holmes unlike anyone before him, focusing on his humanity, experience and longevity. With his dear partner Watson gone, this story focuses on Holmes determination to correct the embellishments of the famous books, no pipe and no deerstalker hat. McKellen conjures up ill and unpleasant faces both of contempt unsatisfactory with his old age, in a way that’s almost comical when he snarls at a young boy misidentifying a bee on the train ride home.

Linney, ever the Condon muse, is also fantastic as the stone faced housekeeper. Linney (Mystic River, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), who has been chained to television so long, returns with a powerful supporting performance. The story weaves in and out of past and present, fiction and non-fiction as we not only journey with Holmes in rediscovery but learn valuable lessons on honesty, love, and humanity. “I never had much use for imagination, I prefer facts,” Holmes says to his Japanese friend. Examining the importance of imagination, choosing to see things beyond the facts is the lesson both Holmes and the audience get to take away from this beautiful adventure that not only provides entertainment, cinematic artistry, but a reminder of the power in small, intimate stories.

Final Thought

The greatest portrayal of Sherlock Holmes to ever grace the screen.


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