Mr. Holmes

And The Case Of The Forgotten Memory

I wanted to see Mr. Holmes primarily because of Ian McKellen. Let’s face it he makes an imposing Magneto in X-Men and then there is of course Gandalf. Sure these are only two roles but with a voice like that who wouldn’t want to see more of this man, right?!

Well I wasn’t let down. Ian McKellen plays a great version of Sherlock, even if it’s not the Sherlock that you particularly want. This version of Sherlock starts out as a grumpy old man full of cynicism and scorn at life in general. There was a part of me that instantly thought that Ian McKellen is ‘on his way out’ – so convincing is his fragile portrayal of a 93 year old Sherlock. Seeing a spritely 60 year old version of Sherlock instantly allayed those concerns – so convincing is his portrayal of his younger self.

The fantastic acting doesn’t just stop with McKellen though. Laura Linney puts in a great performance as Sherlock’s housemaid and pseudo-nurse Mrs Munro. Her performance is actually eclipsed by Milo Parker who plays Linney’s son Jack. Jack is arguably your typical young boy full of intrigue and curiosity. It’s this curiosity and an insistence to mimic Mr Holmes’ logical prowess that brings the old man and the young boy together. You can see McKellen’s treatment of Jack go from a mild irritance to a friend who is happy to share in-jokes at the expense of Mrs Munro through to a doting grandfather figure.

Whilst this development of relationships plays out really well the case that Holmes is trying to crack isn’t a typical mystery. You could argue that this is to the benefit of the film and it certainly is an interesting direction to take the plot but for hardened fans of Sherlock I wonder if the limited amount of puzzle solving and daisy chaining of clues will work against the film.

The reason I say this is because the case that Sherlock is trying to crack is his last case before he retired to the countryside. It’s a case that is already solved but the problem is he doesn’t remember how or why. This is all set in motion by the death of his dear friend Watson who has canonised Sherlock in a series of exaggerated novels. Before Sherlock dies he wants to write his own account of who he is by rebuffing some of the misconceptions, such as he smokes a pipe, and explain why he left his profession; his final case in which he can’t shake the feeling that he has somehow missed a crucial part of the puzzle. He must have gotten the case wrong otherwise why quit?

This journey of remembrance plays out using the same tropes of a typical murder mystery with flashbacks to crucial parts of the case and lingering shots of Holmes analysing items. Eventually these clues start coming together like completing a jigsaw puzzle: the answer is on the box in front of you but you still need to find the right pieces to put together before it makes any sense.

The mysterious build up kept me guessing throughout the film but, like a jigsaw puzzle, you might find it tests your patience as most of the pacing is really quite slow. I guess that’s a bit of a back-handed insult. It’s like saying you’re useless because you finish your work too quickly because really, saying the film is slow is about as damning a piece of criticism as I can spout for Mr. Holmes.

So praises nearly all round for Mr. Holmes yet it’s not a film that I would recommend that you rush out and see. It doesn’t have that brisk pacing to leave you feeling energised after watching the movie and the concept of an old man losing his memory doesn’t scream a hour or two of entertaining viewing but from what I can deduce it is undoubtedly a good film with excellent performances and superb character building.

Go See

  • Great acting
  • Interesting twist on the normal Sherlock icon
  • A beautiful sadness

Avoid

  • A bit slow
  • Not enough Holmes in Holmes

Overall

4-stars

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