Friday, November 20, 2015

Mr. Holmes

MR. HOLMES (Bill Condon, 2015)

93-year-old Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) has been long retired to a house in the country where he tends to his bees and tries to bolster his failing memory in MR. HOLMES. It has been thirty-five years since his last case. Dr. Watson’s recounting of the matter of a man who wished for the renowned detective to follow his grief-stricken wife strikes Sherlock as a fiction lacking motive for the identified culprit, yet he struggles to recall the details of the case. He draws encouragement to keep working on the mystery from Roger (Milo Parker), the sharp and inquisitive son of his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney).

Sherlock is also using this time to reflect on a recent visit to postwar Japan at the request of Mr. Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada). Having written on the benefits of royal jelly, he has been summoned to help find the prickly ash, which, like the bees’ secretion, is thought to assist one’s memory. This encounter may have a connection with Sherlock’s past as well, although he dismisses ever knowing the man he is said to have consulted.

With Sherlock Holmes as the main character, the expectation is that MR. HOLMES will yield a good mystery. In this instance it is not so much within the case he is trying to solve but the enlightenment that he discovers regarding his nature. It is a film first and foremost about loneliness. Sherlock has devoted his life to the practice of logic, but in his current state he learns that it too has limitations. Nevertheless, screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher includes plenty of marvelous details indicative of a larger design that can crack the drama’s secrets through Holmesian deductive reasoning.

McKellen is splendid as a brusque logician who can seem heartless with offhand remarks yet takes such apparent delight in a boy who wishes to hone his mind in a similar manner. McKellen’s eyes dance with the spark of a keen intellect underneath the elderly make-up. His Sherlock enjoys being the smartest person in the room, yet he also shows a patient teacher who becomes aware of how his cold, calculating manner requires the warmth and understanding of social courtesies.

Grade: A-

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