Based on a 2005 novel by Mitch Cullin, ‘Mr. Holmes‘ presents a very different Sherlock Holmes to the one we’re used to. He’s older, retired and losing his most valuable weapon: his mind. It’s an emotional journey about character over plot, a decision that works exceptionally well when you’ve got an actor as great as Ian Mckellen playing Holmes.
There is still an important plot though. It concerns the ageing Holmes in a house in the countryside trying to remember the facts and details of his final case. What happened and why was it his last? The plot also touches on his time in Japan, searching for a fix for his memory issues and his relationship with a young Japanese man. The relationship that gets the most time though is that of Holmes and his housekeeper’s young son, Roger. Roger greatly admires Holmes and wants to be just like him, something which his mother isn’t too happy about.
Ian Mckellen is fantastic as Holmes. Old and frail and still harbouring some resentment towards those not as clever as he but also acting as a great mentor and friend to the young Roger. Milo Parker is also great as Roger, a boy who is eager to learn but also has a strained relationship with his overworked mother, the always wonderful Laura Linney. The three of them share a very complex relationship of admiration, trust and reliance. And watching a hero like Holmes in a very real situation such as this is kind of heartbreaking to see.
But it is also a very enjoyable and rewarding film. The emotional payoffs and the story reveals are both unexpected and rewarding in that the story has built towards them and has earned those moments. The story is well crafted, and with multiple flashbacks and three different time settings it does well to balance them and make it clear what is what. Every character moment is earned as the relationships are so believable and real. You really feel for these characters.
‘Mr. Holmes‘ may not give us the detective we’re used to and certainly doesn’t give us the type of story we’re sued to, but that is in no way a bad thing at all. It focuses more on relationships and Holmes’s guilt finally catching up to him. Some real drama carries this film from start to finish and the payoff is just as rewarding as you would expect from a standard Holmes mystery. A really great character study of a film.
JACK’S SCORE: 4/5