Thursday, July 30, 2015

Movie Review: "Mr. Holmes"

It is rare to find something new done with an old character, especially one that has been around for nearly 150 years like Sherlock Holmes has, but that's exactly what the movie Mr. Holmes does.

Based on the book, A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, the film tells the story of a Sherlock like we've never seen him before, a 93-year-old retiree struggling with dementia and the ghosts of cases he feels were left unsolved.  Sir Ian McKellen portrays the titular Mr. Holmes with the wit that you expect from the character, but also with an undercurrent of humanity that few actors that have played the part ever managed.  Perhaps a part of the reason that this is the most human Sherlock is because this is a Sherlock who isn't infallible.

Here, Sherlock is an old man who has to use a cane to walk around and must rely on his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and her young son, Roger (a revelatory Milo Parker), for almost all of his everyday needs, a fact that doesn't always sit well with him.  Another thing that really shows Sherlock's humanity in Mr. Holmes is the friendship that Sherlock strikes up with Roger, who is fascinated by the Sherlock Holmes he has read about in books and is even more fascinated by the man who can tell you exactly where a person has been just by looking at them.  In a lot of Sherlock Holmes films or TV shows we are presented with a Sherlock who is rather abrasive and far from a gentleman, but there is a gentlemanly quality to the Sherlock in Mr. Holmes which allows you to really sympathize with him, and without it you probably wouldn't care as much when Sherlock has to write down Roger's name on the cuff of his shirt just so he can remember it.  Another thing that is refreshing about Mr. Holmes though is that it really isn't a mystery.

Mr. Holmes is a very tender drama with some mystery elements to it, but there is no great whodunit here.  There is no theft, no murder, the only little bit of mystery comes in the form of Sherlock trying to recall his past.  We want to know how Sherlock became a bit of a recluse?  What happened on his last case that made him retreat into a small house on the seaside with his housekeeper and his bees?  These questions all play into the ideas that I thought about the most while watching the film -- memory and mortality, and how we can lose both.

When it gets right down to it, if you are looking for a Sherlock Holmes film that is in a more traditional fashion, there are probably at least a hundred of those out there, but Mr. Holmes isn't one such film.  Mr. Holmes actually manages to be something unique and stand out from all the other stories about the world's most famous detective because it is a look at the man himself, and not just the man going about solving a case.  By examining a Sherlock Holmes without a real case, we get to know the real Sherlock Holmes and actually feel for him in a way that I don't think I've ever felt for Sherlock Holmes before and that is why Mr. Holmes is a remarkable film that should be seen.

I give Mr. Holmes a 10 out of 10!

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