I have been an avid fan of all things Sherlock Holmes since the 1970s. I remember discovering a Basil Rathbone film late on a Saturday night and was hooked. I watched the Frank Langella play on HBO countless times. I was there when Jeremy Brett was first telecast on PBS in the 80s. And I fondly remember buying a hardbound edition of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories in the 80s as well. Over the years, my love for the great detective has reached highs and lows. For every Brett and Rathbone, there has been a few less than stellar offerings. However, Ian McKellen’s version of an older Sherlock Holmes will now rank amongst my personal favorites.
When I first saw the trailer for Mr. Holmes last year, I knew this was a movie I needed to see. Sadly, the theatrical run came and went too quickly. But a nice Blu-ray copy was waiting under the Christmas tree and I recently had a chance to sit down and see if it would live up to the good reviews. I’ve often been slow to accepting new takes on Sherlock Holmes. It took me a couple of years before I sat down to discover Benedict Cumberbatch. I love his interpretation, despite the fact it is not truly loyal to the original source material. That may be why I was a little worried that Mr. Holmes might not be what I wanted it to be since it was an original story. Fear not, my worries were soon laid to rest.
Mr. Holmes is set in the final years of Sherlock’s life. The year is 1947 and Sherlock has retired to his bee farm in Sussex. His current but reluctant housekeeper is Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney, Love Actually), who is accompanied by her brilliant and inquisitive young son Roger (Milo Parker, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children). Sherlock has returned from a trip to Hiroshima with a jelly made from prickly ash in hopes it will help his failing memory. Sherlock is hoping to right the wrongs that Dr. Watson did by publishing a more accurate account of his last case, “The Adventure of the Dove Grey Glove”, but he needs help remembering the events of long ago.
Sherlock’s adventures in Japan and his last case are told through flashbacks. Sherlock’s failing memory and early senility in the present are taking their toll. It was this element of the film that hit me quite personally. Seeing Sherlock become frail and weak, falling and unable to get up, was quite heartbreaking at times. Sherlock is timeless but it seemed like watching a childhood hero become old and die right before my eyes. As I near 50, many of the great actors and musicians I still watch and listen to are dying. Each time, it’s like another part of my youth is stolen from me. I also saw my father in the guise of Ian McKellen. At the age of 84 and suffering from Lewey Body Dementia, I’ve been losing him slowly over the course of the last year, knowing that my time with him is now limited.
Ian McKellen’s performance in Mr. Holmes was amazing and I wish it would have received more recognition. His relationship with young Roger through their bonding over the bees and detective stories was heartwarming, something we need to see more of in films today. My only and very minor complaint came from the fact that supposedly 30 years had passed since Sherlock’s last case. Through makeup and acting, he did appear older than the flashbacks but not 30 years. Again, minor but something that might have been addressed differently in the script. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Holmes.
Mr. Holmes is based on the novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, written by Mitch Cullin. It is currently available on Amazon. Mr. Holmes the film is readily available on Blu-ray. Check out the trailer on YouTube, as you add both the book and film to your personal collections today. I am anxious to read the novel and highly recommend the movie to any fan of Sherlock Holmes. I would love to see more of Ian McKellen in the role of Sherlock. He might not be the most accurate according to the original stories but far superior to many others who have attempted the role over the years. Check it out as I know you won’t be disappointed.