Over the last half decade we’ve had modern Holmes, American Holmes, Guy Ritchie Holmes and now, thanks to director Bill Condon, it’s time to make way for pensioner Holmes. It’s testament, however, to the apparently eternal appeal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective that tedium still has yet to set in.
Sir Ian McKellan takes on a 93-year-old Holmes, ensconced in his Sussex country house with only his bees, his housekeeper and her son to keep him company, as his advancing years begin to take their toll. Loosely based on the 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, Holmes’ famous wits are threatening to desert him for good, as he tries to squeeze his fading memory dry in order to understand his last, unsuccessful case.
McKellan is excellent, bringing a convincing frailty with his trademark baritone to his portrayal of a dying man trying to reconcile a lingering earthly guilt and battle his physical limitations. It is as he muddles through his memories to put right Watson’s account of a case from years earlier that Holmes strikes up his defining relationship of the film.
The young son of the housekeeper shows an enquiring and intelligent mind to the old man as they bond over the hives. He swiftly becomes a much better hope for Holmes in his endeavour to unlock his memory and secure his legacy than the royal jelly and Japanese medicinal roots with which he has been experimenting.
In his dotage, Holmes’ angst for his past and limits on his future are portrayed and concluded in an appropriately uncomplicated, delicate manner for a detective in his autumn years, never raising the pulse of the audience with too much excitement. Condon suitably reconciles the central themes of mortality and faded glory in a bee-rich denouement, as part of what can go down as a charming enough vision of Holmes after Baker Street.
Mr Holmes does not have a UK release date yet.
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