This movie hit the cinemas in July and the DVD market this week. I love the fact the turnaround time is so short nowadays. I had really wanted to see this production back in the summer but it never played near me. I have always loved Sherlock Holmes stories in whatever format they appear (still am a huge fan of the Basil Rathbone versions I saw on television as a kid) and my respect of Ian McKellen as an actor can’t be understated. His film adaptation of Richard III is one of my favorite Shakespeare movies and Of God’s And Monster’s about the man who brought Frankenstein to the big screen is one of his most brilliant. As it turns out, the team that gave us that movie brings us this one as well.
Mr. Holmes is no ordinary Sherlock tale. Based on a book, the story finds Holmes near the end of his life, self-exiled for decades in a country cottage, and suffering from dementia, all the while desperate to discover what really happened in his last case, a mystery on the tip of his mind that he can’t quite recall.
This is a terribly poignant story about coming to terms with one’s self at the end of a physical journey. What Holmes is really doing in this story is trying to solve the mystery of our humanity. There are plenty of clues but no obvious answer.
McKellen plays the character of Holmes with the genius wit we’d expect but he is brilliant in combining it with frailties a younger Holmes might have suppressed. In this fashion, Holmes – ever the genius – remains accessible and worthy of our empathy.
Laura Linney brings a believable conflicted housekeeper, widowed by war and raising a young son in a time when that was not the norm, to the story. In many ways, she is the polar opposite of Holmes. The bridge between them is the young son, performed wonderfully by Milo Parker, who finds in Holmes the father he didn’t know and a path into a brighter future. The scenes between McKellen and Parker are some of the best in the movie.
One surprise to the movie is a scene – that takes place in 1947 – where Holmes is in Nagasaki. This would be less than two years after the atomic bomb dropped there and it is a key moment in the movie. You don’t think often about what life was like there in the aftermath but the movie to its credit doesn’t skirt the issue.
The mystery Holmes is solving is within himself. For that reason, this is not the uplifting version of Holmes we normally see portrayed. Having said that, this is one of the best Holmes movies and a must see from your rental box. 5/5 on the review scale so keep it mind this weekend!