Mr. Holmes

 

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Oddly overlooked in the awards season, this unusual take on Sherlock Holmes contains one of Sir Ian McKellen’s finest performances.

 

This is the film which reunited director Bill Condon with Sir Ian McKellen who had previously appeared as James Whale in his 1998 feature Gods and Monsters and who here plays Sherlock Holmes in a story about the detective’s old age. Indeed it is set in 1947 when Holmes is 93-years-old having been retired for some thirty years. We find him in Sussex looked after by a loyal housekeeper (Laura Linney) who has a son, Roger, not yet in his teens (a role excellently played by Milo Parker).

 

 Mr. Holmes

Senior moments: Milo Parker with Ian McKellen as Sherlock

 

Based on a novel by Mitch Cullin, this is obviously far removed from a typical tale of the great detective even if it does find him contemplating afresh the investigation that had closed his career. Befuddled as his mind has become, Sherlock nevertheless thinks back on this case hoping to unravel the truth about it that had remained concealed. To aid himself in this he writes it up and explains what he is doing to young Roger. The boy becomes intrigued by these past events which now unfold in flashbacks on the screen. The case had concerned a husband suspicious about the behaviour of his wife (Hattie Morahan) and, as their story is retold leading to a fresh understanding of the facts, Mr. Holmes does indeed provide a mystery for Sherlock to solve.

Even so and regardless too of humorous elements that play on the contrasts between the real Holmes and the image of him built up by the late Dr. Watson, Mr. Holmes is at heart a study of old age. It finds Holmes belatedly reaching out to others when his fresh appreciation regarding his last case leads him to recognise how a denial of emotion on his part had resulted in a lifetime of loneliness.

At times the film has to juggle oddly contrasted elements, but Condon directs well, ensures that the bond between Holmes and young Roger expresses a kind of father/son feeling that never sinks into sentimentality and obtains a finely calibrated performance from Laura Linney who finds the right strength for her role without ever conflicting with the film’s requirement that the character of Sherlock Holmes is the prime focus here. McKellen’s work is magnificent, ranking with his very best. When the film was released this fact was widely acknowledged which makes it all the more mysterious that McKellen failed to nail a whole series of Best Actor nominations. The film stands as proof that he deserved them.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast:  Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Roger Allam, Frances De La Tour, Hattie Morahan, Phil Davis, Patrick Kennedy, John Sessions, Frances Barber, Nicholas Rowe.

 

Dir Bill Condon, Pro Anne Carey, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, Screenplay (from the novel A Slight Trick 

of the Mind by Mitch Cullin) Jeffrey Hatcher, Ph Tobias Schliessler, Pro Des Martin Childs, Ed Virginia Katz, Music Carter Burwell, Costumes Keith Madden. 

 

A1 Film/BBC Films/Filmnation Entertainment/an Archer Gray/See-Saw Films production etc.-E1 Films.
104 mins. USA/UK. 2015. Rel: 19 June 2015. Cert. PG
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