Mr. Holmes: Review 

Mr. Holmes sees Sir Ian Mckellen reunite with Gods and Monsters director, Bill Condon, for what is a very reflective take on the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creation. Recent years have seen the revival of Sherlock Holmes, with a hugely successful, Benedict Cumberbatch-starring television series; an American version of the show, entitled Elementary; and Guy Ritchie’s blockbusting films, which see Holmes as a gun-toting action hero, proving that the character is as popular as ever.

Mr. Holmes however, is more Rich Tea biscuit than it is Guy Ritchie –  a perfect Sunday evening movie, which will go down well with a cup of tea, and indeed a biscuit. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I enjoyed this unashamedly traditional story, more so than any of the other recent incarnations of Holmes.

Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel, A Slight Trick of The Mind, Mr. Holmes finds the Baker Street detective as an old man, who can barely walk without a cane. Now living on British coast, where he tends to his Apiary of honey bees. As his memory begins to fail, Holmes attempts to recount the story of his final case, which ended in tragedy and forced him into retirement. All the while, he’s aided by the young son of his housekeeper, Roger, who develops a relationship with Holmes, and attempts to help him with his memory.

Slow and thoughtful; Mr. Holmes may prove disappointing to those expecting a riveting mystery and thrills galore. The film isn’t as interested in the central case as it is in Holmes himself, and is primarily a character study into what the detective may have been like at an old age. Regret and guilt play a big part in the story, as Sherlock – who has always been a prickly character – comes to terms with the way in which he has lived his life, and ponders what may have been, if he had made different decisions. Something we can all relate to.

It’s Ian McKellen himself who really drives along the narrative though, and the actor shines in the role, or, roles. Playing Holmes at different stages of his life with ease, McKellen showcases nuance and a remarkable control over his physicality. One moment he’s the creaky, crooked and wheezy Holmes who has been long retired; and the next moment he’s the younger, suave, and poised detective.

What I’ve always found most endearing about Ian McKellen though, is how he can say so much with just his eyes. Here, from the very opening scene in which Holmes tells off a boy for not understanding the difference between a bee and a wasp, McKellen portrays so many different emotions through what appears to be a simple look. He’s supported by a strong cast too, including Laura Linney, who plays the housekeeper Mrs Munro.

It’s the great cast, as well as handsome photography which turns Mr. Holmes into something worth seeing at the cinema, when in it could have quite have easily been televisual in the wrong hands. It is, ironically, slightly forgetable, and fans of the postmodern Sherlock, may find this a bit dull. I liked the fact that it wasn’t fast and ready though, and just soaked up the performances and lovely scenery.

Mr. Holmes is a thoughtful piece of cinema, that isn’t really about Sherlock Holmes, but instead uses the character to investigate wider themes of life, love, death, and regret. A nice change of pace during the blockbuster season, it’s the type of film which the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it – so make sure to have your brain turned on at all times.

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