If you’re getting tired of all the big summer blockbuster superhero remake sequel madness, and I can assure you that Mr. Holmes is some excellent counter programming. And frankly, I’ll watch Sir Ian McKellen do just about anything, and most definitely watch him play the great sleuth Sherlock Holmes. I need to see him in a play and I hope I get that chance sometime.
An aging, retired, Sherlock Holmes now looks back on his life and struggles with the one case he left unsolved, involving a beautiful woman.
Sherlock Holmes, now 93, has retired to a Sussex cottage, complete with widowed cook Mrs. Munro (Laury Linney), and her young teen son Roger who helps Holmes with his bee hives. Holmes tends to the bees when not in his attic study writing. He is showing signs of his age, both physically and mentally. He uses the bees honey in an elixir that is to help sharpen his mental acuity, as well as a recent preocupation with botany.
Holmes recently returns from Japan, searching for a potent plant only found there. Correspondence from a Mr. Umezaki brought him there, but a mutual interest in botany may not be the only reason. That sub-plot, and the reason for Holmes’s retirement 30 years earlier – finally a case that Sherlock himself could not solve – eventually come together neatly.
As Holmes fervently writes what he remembers of that last case (if he could only recall what he got wrong), he also begins to realize the need for stories in our lives. He eventually sees the value of written fiction, from deerstalker hats and curved Sherlock tobacco pipes.
Ian McKellen is as superb as you would expect as Sherlock Holmes, both at 93, and in flashbacks 30 years younger. At times his anguish at searching his own mind is heart-breaking. Laura Linney is wonderful as Mrs. Munro, a no-nonsense mother to Roger. She is a simple woman, but is strong, caring, and wants only the best for her bright son. Turns out, Laura Linney had recently had a baby so her added weight here is quite apropos for her character in this film that takes place primarily in 1947. I saw her a the Q&A after the film, and she has lost all the weight and you’d never know she had a baby at all. How does she do that? I can’t lose this last 20 pounds and I haven’t even had a baby! Well, maybe a food baby, but, you know…
I definitely recommend Mr. Holmes, as it’s a fine film as it is, but it’s also a great alternative to the usual summer blockbusters the studios put all their hopes on to make them their money for the year. Please feel free to vote with your dollar on this one, folks. About four kittenhands here, for sure.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, impressed with how spry Sir Ian McKellen is at 76 years of age.