Mr Holmes: Film Review
Cast: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker,
Director: Bill Condon
As the argument rages over copyright infringement between the studios and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate, it's down to Sir Ian McKellen and a prosthetic nose to carry off this tale based on A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin.
Playing an aged and retired Holmes in 1947, the great detective is now living out his twilight years in a Sussex village, under the house leadership of Mrs Munro (Linney). Dividing his time between keeping bees and little else, Holmes finds his failing memory jolted by Munro's son, Roger to try and solve one last unsolved case that's haunted him for 50 years.
The case is that of a beautiful woman....and only fragments of it remain as Holmes juggles the memories of that, a trip abroad to secure a plant for his illness and the impending visit from the Grim Reaper.
A fascinating character study of a man so reliant on his wits and his powers (Holmes is urged several times to 'Do the thing' by one youngster where he demonstrates his powers of deduction) now facing ruin thanks to the ravages of time and the onset of dementia.
McKellen pulls off Holmes (and being in his 90s) with considerable aplomb, mixing humanity, frailty and frustration in equal measure; he's perfect as the aged great detective, playing it heartbreakingly as the end nears and slightly more agile in 2 flashbacks set after the marriage of Watson (who curiously only appears in blurred shadow and is frequently referred to as having heavily fictionalised Holmes' escapades).
But nipping back and forth in time is also the film's weaker point as it juggles three narratives, all feeling like they need fleshing out with some more dramatic worth as the tapestry is drawn. Though, it has to be argued, I would happily indulge myself in watching McKellen do a series of Holmes in his elder years.
Linney is underused as the housekeeper and there's a feeling she could have played more than a cuckold, as she faces the dilemma of what to do next. McKellen gels well with Parker, the youngster Roger who is in awe of Holmes and his reputation with a bond that feels natural and relateable, as well as serving the inquisitive assistant nobly. (Fans of Sherlock Holmes' various incarnations will be delighted to see the Young Sherlock putting an appearance in)
But it is without a doubt, McKellen's film and he delivers definitively on the mystery within a mystery premise that's been set up. Riffing on the legend of Holmes with deer stalkers and the dashing wit, Mr Holmes remains an enigmatic film, a vessel that feels like it's lacking in some parts - but thanks to the central performance, it presents a tantalising glimpse for a direction that the detective could go once everyone tires of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes.