Directed by Bill Condon
Starring Ian McKellen, Laura Linney and Milo Parker
If you’re looking for a thrilling crime drama with twists and turns at every corner, Mr Holmes is not for you. Instead this is a gentle, slow character study of the title character as an old man, which has both advantages and disadvantages.
Ian McKellen’s Sherlock is frail and worn, struggling with the early signs of dementia whilst befriending the son of a housekeeper, a fan, who wants Sherlock to go back to detecting again. The relationship between the two characters, through looking after the bees, is one of the film’s strong points.
Holmes is troubled by his last case, “The Adventure of the Dove Grey Glove”, which has been fictionalised by Watson. He is determined to write his own account about it, which we learn through a series of flashbacks.
The strongest aspect of the film, as you probably guessed, is Ian McKellen’s performance. You really get a sense that this man was once a great detective who lived a strange and wonderful life. But his performance is also quite tragic, with the struggles to remember, a man who is right at the end of his life.
The subtle contrast between the flashbacks and present day are a true testament to McKellen’s talent. He’s so convincing in the present day scenes, the way his hands tremble and his speech so slurred. But he’s much more fresh in the flashbacks, healthier, and it’s hard to believe that it’s the same man.
The supporting cast do great jobs as well. Laura Linney plays the housekeeper and is almost unrecognizable, and Milo Parker does a great job as her son, sharing some great scenes with Ian McKellen. Another aspect that sees this film stand out to any other Holmes film is that there’s no Watson. It’s up to Parker’s character to fill in as the Holmes sidekick. It works, but not as well as a traditional Holmes story where he and Watson have a bit more banter between them.
What’s interesting about the film is that it lives in Alan Partridge’s world * where Sherlock Holmes is a real person. In one scene, McKellen’s Holmes is sat in the cinema watching a Sherlock Holmes film. This is an interesting spin on the character and it adds to the weight and celebrity of the character. McKellen couldn’t have been better cast in this role.
* In an episode of “Knowing Me Knowing You” Partridge believed that Sherlock Holmes was real person, with Doyle’s novels serving as a biography.
There are some very nice shots, Tobias Schliessler’s cinematography and Bill Condon’s directing complimenting each other very nicely. A very somber atmosphere is created and in a couple of grim moments in the film, you feel it.
Carter Burwell’s score is another of the film’s stronger aspects, fitting in elegantly with the per-mentioned somber atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the film is anti-climatic. There’s nothing wrong with slow burners, but when the pay off is small it questions whether sticking with the film was wroth it. Mr Holmes is awfully slow and doesn’t really reach a big conclusion.
Ultimately, Mr Holmes is a graceful, unique take on the character of Sherlock Holmes, however it lacks the excitement and thrills that usually comes with a Sherlock story. Ian McKellen’s performance elevates the film, but otherwise isn’t a particularly memorable film.
RATING : 3/5
Review by Brad Weir