It’s a rare film that gives a completely new perspective on a character like Sherlock Holmes, but Mr Holmes has done so beautifully. Directed by Bill Condon and based on Mitch Cullin’s novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, Mr Holmes is a triumph, a slow burning and completely absorbing mystery, with a strong emotional core.
The film centres on the now 93-year-old Holmes (Ian McKellan) who’s retired to Sussex to tend his bees. His mind, once his greatest asset, is beginning to fail him and Holmes is desperate to slow its deterioration to solve one last case. The case is that of a young woman, Ann Kelmot, and Holmes’ last case before he retired. Over the course of the film, he struggles to remember just what it was that drove him into his self-imposed exile. Through his bond with his housekeeper’s (Laura Linney) young son Roger (Milo Parker), Holmes begins to regain some of the humanity he’s ignored for so long.
Through flashbacks we see Holmes explore that final case and travel to Japan for ‘prickly ash’, a plant meant to slow degenerative conditions. It’s a refreshing take on the well-worn character and McKellan is perfect for the role. His Holmes is stubborn, grouchy, with just the right amount of smugness and vulnerability. Performances from the rest of the cast are excellent too: Linney’s accent is flawless and Parker gives a wonderful performance as wise-beyond-his-years Roger.
The film itself is shot beautifully, tenderly and the sombre soundtrack creates the perfect atmosphere. But what sets this apart from many other adaptations is that it completely does away with the larger-than-life image the character has built up. Holmes is simply a man here, struggling with loneliness and old age. Despite this big change, what makes a Holmes film appealing is left intact; the mystery comes together slowly and has ultimately satisfying ending.
In short, Mr Holmes is a beautiful film – a must-see this summer.
Mr Holmes is released nationwide on 19th June 2015.
Watch the trailer for Mr Holmes here: