Mr. Holmes (2015) – Film Review

The Filmnomore Movie Blog was charmed if not blown aware by this ‘what if’ Sherlock Holmes was real film


Mr. Holmes is directed by Bill Condon who has something of a mixed past having been responsible for two of the Twilight films and The Fifth Estate (2013).  The film is based on a novel by Mitch Cullin called A Slight Trick of the Mind published in 2005 and is based on the premise that Sherlock Holmes did exist and lived on Baker Street albeit on the other side of the road to the famous 221b address.  We meet him as a 93 year-old, retired on the south coast of England in the late 1940’s looking after his beloved bees.  He is kept company by a housekeeper, Mrs Munroe (Laura Linney), and her young son Roger (Milo Parker).

The movie is set up as Sherlock Holmes looking back on his final case that led to his retirement circa 30 years earlier while there are a couple of subplots featuring Mrs Munroe considering a move to Portsmouth and a recent visit to Japan.  The film moves between the different time periods as we learn more and more about his final case and how it relates to his trip to Japan and his current circumstances.  Ultimately what I think the film is really about is the importance of identity and place in the world – what happens when after lifetime of certainty everything you have believed in is challenged.  Holmes is battling with old age and memory loss as he tries to recover his lost memories and as the facts of his final case come back to him, he questions whether his stringent belief in logic has really served as well as he thought.

The strength of the film is the performance of Sir Ian McKellen, and while it would be possible to listen to him read from the phone book for two hours and be entertained, this film gives him a meaty role to sink his teeth into.  You already know that Laura Linney is a class act but it is the onscreen chemistry between McKellen and Parker as young Roger that stands out.  For a young actor whose only previous credit was Robot Overlords (2014), and no I haven’t heard of it either, he demonstrates a subtlety in his performance that is difficult to find in someone so young.  It is often on or off, loud or quiet.  There is a gentle lilting humour to the film that is almost blink and you miss it if you’re not concentrating on the dialogue but it delivered a number of audible chuckles in the screening I attended.

I had no major gripes with Mr. Holmes although part of me was hoping for a little more pay off from learning the outcome of his final case.  It fitted in with the story the movie told but something deep down in me wanted a bigger thrill. The story is intelligently told with one of the best acting performances this year from McKellen anchoring it along with his back and forth with Parker.  I can’t help thinking I’m being a little mean with my rating 3/5.


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