Mr. Holmes, directed by Bill Condon is a sedate, sweet film that offers a refreshing little story about Sherlock Holmes in his later life. Mr. Holmes makes no attempt to stray away from the familiar and is a film that won’t redefine the already well established image of the character, but is one that newer fans to the faithful old detective may struggle with.
The story of Mr. Holmes sees the detective living out his final days in a quiet little British town. No longer are there people knocking at the door of 221 Baker Street looking for him to solve all manner of things. Instead we watch as the character attempts to battle the ailments of old age, while also attempting to free himself from the burden of his last case, a case that still haunts him and the very reason he gave up his prosperous career.
Leading the film is the always reliable Sir Ian McKellan, and as you’d expect he does a wonderful job portraying a character that has at this point been played by countless actors (most recently by Benedict Cumberbatch). McKellan’s performance sees a return to the more subtle charm that the character is perhaps use to having. I found it to be not only a heartfelt portrayal of the character but also a deeply emotional one. This is a performance built very much on the subtlety of the actor. Only when the character begins to delve deeper into his murky past does McKellan stretch the emotional baggage that clearly haunts him and it is at these points that the brilliance of McKellan’s acting shines.
What came as a surprise to me in the film was that McKellan was supported by a young actor, Milo Parker who plays Roger, the son of Sherlock Holmes’s house keeper. The two form a friendship over the course of the film, and both the actors and the characters played wonderfully off one another. There really does feel like an honest bond between them both, and this certainly helps bring the heart to the film.
In turn, what I felt harmed the film was the character of Roger’s mother, Mr’s Munro, played by Laura Linney. The problem with this character was that she seemed written to be intentionally antagonistic. It seemed that writer Mitch Cullin wanted to find an opposition for Holmes to face and so settled on the house keeper. To me it felt forced and unrealistic, and the constant upheaval that the character would cause, became annoying after a while.
Compared to most Sherlock Holmes stories, Mr. Holmes is a much simpler told one. Most of the characters you know from the films/books/TV shows are not present, and in the place of a multi-layered crime to solve, there is a small plot, one that isn’t full of twists and turns. Mr. Holmes is more of a character film, this is one that follows Sherlock Holmes long after his time as a detective is over (though it does touch upon some of those times with some flashbacks) this is a film that wants to show the man beyond all that, and I appreciated the different take.
Mr. Holmes isn’t a film filled with revelations or surprise, and I think that most new comers to the world of Sherlock Holmes may find this film to be a little slow and empty. I believe that this is a film for fans of a different era of Sherlock Holmes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I enjoyed my time with Mr. Holmes and would happily recommend it, but with one slight addendum. Mr. Holmes isn’t necessarily a film that you need to rush out and see on the big screen, instead this is perhaps a film that you relax at home and watch the Blu-Ray of. That’s my personal opinion with this type of film, but it’s still certainly a film that is enjoyable to watch.