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Review - Mr Holmes

Review – Mr Holmes

| On 30, Jul 2015

In Mr Holmes the world’s most brilliant detective grapples with a half-remembered failure that he fears will haunt him to his death. It’s a tragic lens through which to look at one of history’s great literary figures.

Coming at a time when there are no fewer than three different takes on the iconic character, this subdued BBC drama seems rather anachronistic by comparison. It doesn’t have Downey Jnr’s steampunk action, Cumberbatch’s modernism or even Elementary’s fresh setting. But what it does have is Ian McKellen as Holmes, giving an achingly soulful performance as a brilliant man who, as his mind decays, is left only with his loneliness.

Mr Holmes 1

The start of the film finds Holmes returning to his country estate run by housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker). The long retired detective has just returned from Japan and looks every one of his 93 years, shuffling about his home with a bone deep weariness. Roger, a young boy with a passion for the Sherlock Holmes mystery books (which Holmes views as cheap dime novels that barely resemble his real investigations), orbits the old man with a unrestrained fascination.

It doesn’t take a seasoned movie watcher to predict that the crotchety old man and cherubic young boy will form a close bond as the film progresses, but it’s a credit to the actors that this relationship feels lived in and real. Linney likewise brings a real pathos to the widowed housekeeper who knows that her employer is not long for this world.

Sherlock, meanwhile, is trying to recall the details of his final case thirty years prior, the one that forced him to retire. He feels he must get the details down on paper before he dies, but his rapidly accelerating dementia makes it near impossible. In his quest to briefly regain his former sharpness it is revealed that he journeyed to the ash fields of post nuclear Hiroshima, searching for a mysterious root that might slow the decay of his mind.

Mr Holmes2The way McKellen’s blank stares morph from confused terror into pretend lucidity will be frighteningly familiar to anyone who’s witnessed dementia firsthand. Everything that is truly great about the film is contained in those moments, the fierce intelligence mixed with a bitter resignation.

Unfortunately, the film as a whole doesn’t always maintain this subtlety. Stylistically, its no-nonsense, formalist approach occasionally drifts into TV movie mawkishness, especially in the culmination of the second act. Likewise cliche details, such as an oriental pan flute that enters the soundtrack for every scene set in Japan, grates and undermines the cast’s performances.

Ultimately though, watching the character of Sherlock pick apart his own legacy, particularly the way he let factual truths obscure deeper emotional truths, is too rich to ignore, particularly in the hands of the masterful McKellen. For his Sherlock, “Human nature was something logic could not illuminate.” But in Mr Holmes, we see a deep human truth, written clearly across McKellen’s face.

What Mr Holmes

When In Cinemas Now

More Information See Official Website

Image Credits – Official Website