An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes deals with early dementia, as he tries to remember his final case, and a mysterious woman, whose memory haunts him. He also befriends a fan, the young son of his housekeeper, who wants him to work again.
The story is set in 1947, following a long-retired Holmes living in a Sussex village with his housekeeper and her young son. But then he finds himself haunted by a thirty-year old case. Holmes memory isn't what it used to be, so he only remembers fragments of the case: a confrontation with an angry husband, and a secret bond with his beautiful, but unstable wife.
Based on the Mitch Cullin novel, "A Slight Trick of the Mind", we get a rare glimpse into the life of an ageing legend. Set in post WWII England, Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) has retired to the country. In the beautiful landscape of Sussex, cares for his beloved bees and is cared for by his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her determined and investigative son, Roger (Milo Parker). As Mr. Holmes attempts to rectify Dr. Watson's fictitious portrayal of his life, he wrestles with the challenges of growing old and coming to terms with his final case. Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) and McKellen collaborate on an intriguing mystery that involves retrieving the facts of the past in the fading memory of an old detective.
At a recent dinner party, I was describing the premise of Mr. Holmes to a friend and I quickly saw the fog of disinterest sweep over his eyes, because it did not include any CGI effects or explosions. Which was unfortunate, because in amongst the cinematic landscape of the season, this film was a breath of fresh air. Director Bill Condon provides a wonderfully crafted story and a beautiful cinematic backdrop to unlikely discussion points. With the overly used character vehicle, Sherlock Holmes, he engages the ageing hero in determining the fine line between fact and fiction and the value of the elderly. These topics may not get the average movie fan out of their seat on a Friday night, but they are woven beautifully in a character driven film of relationships and mystery. A rich and meaningful relational portrait is given his mentorship of young Roger, who is a fledgling sleuth and fellow bee keeper. Also, Condon seems to take joy in dismantling the mythology of the legend, as he demystifies every fictitious devise that Watson has added into the character of Sherlock Holmes. Condon continues to show his ability to provide fresh vision for story and characters. His only directing weakness is the time line continuance. There are three different time lines to consider and they can get a bit muddled, but it does not detract from the overall experience. Ultimately, he is able to effectively portray the past and the present, and allow Ian McKellen develop Holmes into an original and appealing depiction of the master sleuth.
Like 2014's Birdman, the audience has to come to terms with the notion of the ageing hero. Are the heroes of folklore and legend allowed to age? Sherlock Holmes cerebral abilities are unsurpassed in modern mythology and to consider him losing his mental faculties is disconcerting at first, but becomes endearing. Holmes' realisation of his own weaknesses and dependence on those around him opens fresh territory for this character and provides a humanity that is difficult to see in most of the portraits of the detective. Mr. Holmes is an entertaining and thought provoking film that provides a oasis in amongst the desert plain of blockbusters and sequels this season.
Leaving the cinema...
Admitting that seeing this film at the State Theatre during the Sydney Film Festival added to the experience, that did not diminish the value of this film. McKellen was brilliant, Condon is back to his directorial best and it was a refreshing take on a familiar cinematic character.
It is elementary, Mr. Holmes is a film worth seeing this year.
Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film? 1. Is life a mystery? (Colossians 2:1-3, 1 Timothy 3:16) 2. Why do we have to age? (Genesis 3, Ecclesiastes) 3. What value are the elderly in our society? (Proverbs 16:31, Job 12:12)
* What is an Art-house rating?
Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #mrholmes
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