Sherlock Holmes has been solving crimes since his first appearance in print back in 1897. The character came from the imagination of Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote 4 novels and numerous short stories. It makes a person wonder when Doyle originated Holmes if he thought the character would still be so popular in television, print and movies.
Ian McKellen joins the over 200 actors that have played Holmes in the movie, Mr. Holmes. The movie cast includes Laura Linney as Mrs. Munro, Milo Parker as Roger Munro, and a cameo by actor Nichols Rowe. If people do not recognize Rowe’s name he played Holmes in the movie, Young Sherlock Holmes, and in this film plays an actor playing the master detective. Yes, that alludes to the fact there is a movie that is viewed within this movie.
Mr. Holmes takes the viewer into the world of a now retired, 93 years old, bee keeper’s life. This is how Holmes is living out his golden years under the care of Mrs. Munro and her son Roger in 1947 England. These two characters are going to be at odds with Holmes at times as many fans will recall he is not the most “sensitive” of men. An example of this, sensitivity, is when Holmes sees what’s for dinner he shows a sign of disappointment to the smiling Mrs. Munro.
This version of Holmes had ended his detective career after one last case that happened after Watson had left after he had gotten married. This is explained in the movie, and this last case will be a major plot point of the film. The other major point is that tied of with one Matsuda Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada) who ‘s knowledge of the prickly pear.
As you may read I have been dropping a few hints to the film without sharing any major spoilers but to do this movie justice I must share one main spoiler. The fact of the matter is that at 93 Holmes is starting to lose that one thing he had counted on most through his career. He is going senile and is losing his memory. His mind being his strongest weapon and the film does a majestic job of showing how he struggles with that loss. It will explain how his bees and the prickly pear will all be come relevant to the film.
Holmes will show signs of weakness and vulnerability and even appears human at times. This is something some versions of Holmes have not shown. He is still brilliant and there are moments where we are reminded of that, but his interactions with young Roger bring that human side to life. These interactions are almost like that as father and son as Roger learns to care for the bees. This is a fear to Mrs. Munro as her husband died during the war and she can see how fragile Holmes is becoming. It is not said but at times you sense she’s afraid what could happen if Roger loses Holmes as well.
What I found so great about this film is how McKellen portrayed the now flawed detective. You at times may sympathize with what the character is going through. Tales of those dealing with dementia and Alzheimer will come to mind as you watch this portrayal. There are blank stares into the camera that show no activity in the eyes that make things so believable.
Mr. Holmes is one of the best adaptions of the character I have seen in sometime. The setting of 1947 adds so much to the story as well. The fact that Holmes travels to a now post-war Japan and sees the fallout of one of those atomic bombs is so real. It just brings so much to the aging master detective. This is why I enjoyed the movie so much. So often when people see adaptations of Holmes there seems to be a lacking of humanity in the character. There are times sorrow shows through in some of these portrayals but this version makes him human. It’s something that often we do not get to see with Holmes and just imagining a man with such a brilliant mind losing it, and how he finally resolves to that fact is what makes this a great movie.