|Original Theatrical Poster|
This is a tough film to review. On the one hand, Mr. Holmes (2015) is an elegant, touching film, with a mesmerizing performance by Ian McKellen as an elderly Sherlock Holmes. On the other hand, for Holmes buffs, like myself, this is a film that tries to humanize Holmes, by portraying him in a sad, tragic light, as a lonely, ailing old man with nothing to show for his life. This is not the fate we want for the greatest detective who ever lived, is it?
It's also a Holmes film with no real central mystery or puzzle to intrigue us, as director Bill Condon, following a script by Jeffrey Hatcher (based on Mitch Cullins' novel A Slight Trick of The Mind), is more interested in the psychology of Holmes and the surrounding characters than detection and intrigue. And while the surrounding characters are somewhat interesting, they aren't fascinating enough to hold the film together. So what we are left with is watching a regretful, senile Holmes try to remember the details of his last case, the reason he chose to live in exile, tending to his bees, with only a resentful housekeeper (Laura Linney in an annoying performance) and her young son for company.
Still, Mr. Holmes is a pleasant enough couple of hours. It's a classy, polished film, with enough highlights to make it worthwhile. But Holmes aficionados, beware. This is not the Holmes you know. This is Holmes as seen through a realistic lens; not a larger than life super-sleuth, but a man regretfully facing a life unfulfilled. It's an elegiac, bittersweet portrayal that's not for everyone.
Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2015.