Mr. Holmes is a wonderful retelling of the famous detective’s life after his prestigious career. Nearing the end of his life is a beautifully poignant story of regret and loneliness as Sherlock Holmes deals with the problems of old age, beginning with him returning to his home in the countryside of Eastbourne, Sussex following a trip to Japan where he sorted to find a plant called Prickly Ash which is believed to treat memory loss.
Directed by Mark Condon and starring Sir Ian McKellen, both of whom previously collaborated for the James Whale biopic Gods and Monsters, Mr. Holmes is truly engrossing thanks to McKellen’s performance. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him star in a cerebral, slow burning British drama yet he manages to deliver an absolute masterclass in acting. From his piercing gaze to his disapproving grimaces, even the way he breathes shows how he encapsulates the character of not just an elderly man, but one full of history and resentment.
Holmes’ story is interwoven with two flashbacks: one in which he travels to Japan to seek out the medicinal Prickly Ash, and the other depicting his last case where he struggles to remember but is helped by his housekeeper’s son. Being one of Holmes’ strongest assets, the flashback brings about the theme of logic over emotion. It’s shown that his lack of humility and passion for facts becomes his downfall and the film tells this tale perfectly with a real sense of melancholy.
Unfortunately, though the Japanese flashback is necessary for the denouement that emphasises the films themes, a lot of time is wasted quite unnecessarily and could have been cut, considering that the film runs already steady paced.
Though this specific flashback was unsatisfying, a notably powerful piece of storytelling comes in the form of Sherlock Holmes’ ever decreasing memory, likely to be dementia. An illness that affects the lives of many, it’s most upsetting to see the mind of the eponymous hero deteriorating when it’s all he has. A truly moving method to show Holmes’ dementia worsening is displayed when his doctor gives him a diary where he has to scribble a circle on the days he can’t remember something; a cantankerous Holmes reluctantly accepts the diary leading to heartrending scenes.
With a warm ending, Mr. Holmes is a brilliant take on the character that we all know and love. Once again, McKellen showcases some of the best work he can offer the big screen; he only seems to get better with age!
Have you been to see Mr. Holmes yet? If so, what did you think?
Comment with your thoughts.
– Ali Mendzil