MR. HOLMES opens to a soft, glowing view of the English countryside rather than the gloomy mood of Baker Street in London from where the popular detective resides.
The film is based on a novel by Mitch Cullin called ‘A Slight Trick of the Mind’ eighty-eight years after Sherlock’s final appearance in his maker Arthur Conan Doyle’s His Last Bow.
I have a problem with reimagined stories. The ones that are plucked out of the classics and placed in a different setting which could either put them in a far worse situation than they’re supposedly written, or perhaps the writer is trying to borrow a bit of success. After Bill Condon’s stint with the last two Twilight sagas — well, I’m a bit nervous as I even think of those two films.
HOWEVER, from what I’ve seen, there is good intention for Sherlock Holmes in this story.
Ian McKellen plays the 93 year old Sherlock. Unlike his other roles and the other 70 or more actors who played the literary detective, he looses his charm but the wit is just the same. Perhaps I’m allowed to say that he won the role just right. He permits himself to be just as vulnerable as his character is allowed to be — amidst the imagination and output that his maker, Arthur Conan Doyle, and his dearest friend Dr John Watson has created for fans, in here McKellen allows Sherlock to take himself away from the shadows of the two, hoping to recreate a name for his ‘own’, despite the old age.
The film stays true to Sherlock’s old self: he is a beekeeper during his retirement years, he no longer dons the hat and the pipe (although in the film he claims he detests smoking and that he rarely wears the hat) and proudly claims that it is logic that bounds him as a human, never imagination. Imagination was always Dr Watson, his famed sidekick, was best known for.
Now living in the post-Watson late 1940s era, Mr Holmes is retired, aging, and hoping to win back memories for an old case. He arrives from Japan and as the film bounces back and forth to the old case showing a woman whispering though never uttering a word, to memories of his visit in Japan in search of a plant that would help him regain the strengths of his memory.
He is accompanied by Mrs Munro and her son as he exiles himself with his bees. Laura Linney plays the housekeeper, trying to keep the pace with an accent, although they should’ve just let her be. The boy who plays her son, Milo Parker, wins every scene as he helps Mr Holmes with his bees and with the case.
As Mr Holmes finds out the true events of his last case, one that involves a Mr and Mrs Thomas Kelmot (played by Hattie Morahan and Patrick Kennedy) he too finds out the reason for meeting the Japanese adviser Matsuda Umezaki, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, which is far more than digging out war zones in search of a mysterious plant.
Mr Holmes unfolds like a true-blue mystery. The elusiveness that was once written about this character is gone, and all we have is a character who’s just as human as we are. Or perhaps that’s just me, getting tired of all these charismatic interpretations here and there. Holmes was never written to be charismatic. As the character says in the film “I have no time for imaginations.”
This review originally appears in Film Police, bylines by this blog’s author.