Sir Ian McKellen has had quite an astonishing career, and you might have thought that he would start winding down his career, getting ready to settle into a rather late, but well deserved retirement. But it appears not, and instead he has provided an exceptional role in this Indie movie by BBC Films.
Directed by Bill Condon and based upon an existing novel, it introduces us to a Sherlock Holmes who has reached the age of 93, and is in returement supported by a housekeeper and her son. Holmes’s memory is starting to waver, despite his continuing efforts to find something to help him, and it starts to make day-to-day life quite difficult for all involved. With the aid of the housekeeper’s son, he attempts to write down the details of his final case which caused him to retire, but a story which he has a lot of difficulty in remembering. One thing is apparent though – whatever happened in the case had a massive impact upon him both professionally, and personally.
What caught my attention straight away was despite this being about a fictional character that is known across the world, it very quickly set up a very personal connection with Holmes. He has glimmers of the observational wit that made him so famous, but now he is fighting the effects of old age in a way many people do and will have to deal with. He lives a life of happy seclusion surrounded my memories of his life as an investigator, but he knows that he has forgotten something of great importance. The housekeeper does her best to care for him, but it is clear that she knows this cannot carry on indefinitely, and she is seeking a better life for herself and her boy. The son on the other hand, is fascinated by Sherlock, and tries to learn as much as he can everyday, be it investigating techniques, or caring for bees.
It really goes without saying that McKellen provides an outstanding performance. One that isn’t going to knock you off of your feet, but instead will really work at your emotional strings and pull you into the story with almost no effort at all. His understanding of the character, the dedication to the dialogue, and the skill in his mannerisms, are all so wonderful. This is an actor of immense skill just doing what he does best – bloody good acting. Full props have to go as well to the supporting cast of Laura Linney and Milo Parker, who add the extra dimensions and conflict that the story honestly, wouldn’t fully function without. The young boy is particularly good, a very believable and honest performance. If he can keep getting roles in more films like this, hell, this might a name to keep an eye out for.
The movie had a decent budget to it too, and I think it helped a long way towards pushing up the quality. The set design is wonderfully authentic and detailed, even the fold-out cabinet in Holmes’s bedroom is a fantastic design. Fans of period-pieces will also really enjoy the design to scenes in London and Japan. It never rubs all of this in your face, you are just allowed to settle in at your own leisure. Cinematography-wise, it is just very, very competent. Flair is set aside and the aim is instead for keeping scenes well structured. But you still get some great scenery from the South England coast.
It’s quite hard to point out problems here, to be honest I never found myself bored or losing touch with the story elements combining together. I guess if you had to push me towards any points, it would be that (for once) I kind of wanted a longer running time. The side stories are just so fascinating and well done that… yeah, more of that good thing wouldn’t have hurt.
And that really does kind of capture in a bottle, how much I liked this movie. It is a period-piece fiction drama that hits the notes really fucking well. The script is translated to the screen beautifully, and it even manages to cover a topic that is still relevant today – that being illness due to memory loss.
“Mr. Holmes” is a movie that is treated with great attention to detail, and has this warm little glow around the moments of happiness. Ian McKellen puts in a performance that which may not be career-defining, but certainly will be one fans will point to and nod with sincere approval. He illustrates how far he has come in the years, and how refined he has made his art form. Both fans of the Sherlock Holmes series, and newcomers alike will really enjoy this I expect. Seek this one out, and you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading!