Mr Holmes (2015)


Film review of the drama about Sherlock Holmes as a 93 year old man, starring Ian McKellan and Laura Linney and directed by Bill Condon.

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Director: Bill Condon. BBC Films/AI Film/See-Saw et al (PG)




Cast & credits

Producer: Iain Canning, Anne Carey, Emile Sherman.
Writer: Jeffrey Hatcher.
Camera: Tobias A. Schliessler.
Music: Carter Burwell.
Sets: Martin Childs.

Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Frances De La Tour, John Sessions, Philip Davis, Sarah Crowden, Nicholas Rowe.


The famous Private Detective Sherlock Holmes is 93 and retired. He lives a quiet and reclusive life in his Sussex farmhouse, tending to bees and looked after by his housekeeper (Linney) and her inquisitive young son (Parker). Finding it increasingly difficult to remember simple things like names, his mind is troubled by recollections of his last case, his most important yet he cannot recall why. He takes a journey through the country of his once great mind, aided by clues and flashbacks along the way.


The game is afoot! With the aid of a Zimmer Frame.

Dementia is quite the popular topic. It’s not only in the news with frequent stories of older Mr Holmes posterpeople care and alzheimer treatments, but also on TV and in the movies, such as this welding of the Sherlock Holmes myth with senile cinema.

Based on the novel A Slight Trick Of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, it’s a neat take on the Holmes iconography; he rubbishes a number of misconceptions throughout, but readily admits he hides behind them.

The mystery of the last case is a peripheral, red herring of a plot point – the real interest is in the workings of Holmes’ brain as he struggles through the miasma of forgetfulness and frailty to retrieve the memories of what happened and why the case made him quit his profession. When we first see Holmes, he dodders about his house, picking up paint flecks on the staircase to understand who has been there, reflecting the mental breadcrumbs he has to collect during the story.

The extra mystery, of Holmes’ Japanese client (Sanada) who purports to be a botanical expert and a connection to his deceased brother Mycroft (Sessions), feels underdeveloped and tacked on to plump up the screen time, but is also unobtrusive and doesn’t clutter the overall feel of the film.

Painfully, annoyingly slow to start with (one’s mind may wander toward the exit during the first 15 minutes), Mr Holmes has the shuffling pace of a nonagenarian going to answer the front door, but it thankfully picks up the pace for a leisurely journey across time and planet.

Condon’s film is a lovely thing to behold and you learn a fair amount about bee-keeping in the process, but he needed to up the pace a little during the flashback sequences as the film sputters and dawdles when it should entertain on even an elementary level.

McKellan commands with a sly, masterly display of senility, all grimaces, tics and vacant stares. His mind may be disintegrating, but he none the less launches a series of quietly savage attacks on his working class housekeeper, possibly perturbed as to what part of England she comes from, given her indeterminate rural accent.

Parker, as Linney’s son, impresses the most amongst the solid supporting cast, a wide-eyed innocent who rapidly matures in Holmes’ company.


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