Mr. Holmes

Well made and very intriguing, but also very dry.
Movie Review #1,036

Miramax & Roadside Attractions
Drama, Mystery
1 hour, 44 minutes
Rated PG (thematic elements, some disturbing images and incidental smoking)
Released July 24, 2015
Directed by Bill Condon
From the novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind” by Mitch Cullin
Screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher
Starring Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Takako Akashi, John Sessions, and Milo Parker

Jeffrey Hatcher’s script for “Mr. Holmes”, based on Mitch Cullin’s book A Slight Trick of the Mind, offers a highly innovative approach to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless character. This isn’t strictly a Sherlock Holmes mystery. It’s more a drama about an aging Holmes. At 93, he now lives on the English countryside with his housekeeper and her son Roger, who is extremely bright. The boy shares Mr. Holmes’s love of beekeeping. But he also is rather curious about a short story Holmes is writing. It’s called “The Adventure of the Dove Grey Glove” and is based on Holmes’s own experiences. However, Holmes, in his old age, cannot recall these events so easily as he’d hoped.

There’s been something of an onslaught of Sherlock Holmes adaptations recently. In film, we’ve seen Robert Downey Jr. play him twice. On TV, we’ve seen the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch since 2010, and by Jonny Lee Miller since 2012. Now Ian McKellen has stepped into the role. McKellen captures the wit and the wisdom of Holmes far better than any of the other three have. (Given his history in the film industry, is it even sensible to expect otherwise?) And in terms of everything else we’d expect of a period piece, the film is outstanding. Camera, sets, lighting, sound, score–it all makes for an absolutely gorgeous film.

“Mr. Holmes” gets all the notes right in setting up for perfection. It could have achieved just that if it played the music right, too. The simplest solution would have been to find a different director. Don’t get me wrong: Bill Condon can do great things with a film. Making it interesting is one of those things, and we certainly see so in “Mr. Holmes”. But at the same time, the film can be a chore to watch. I’m not saying that it’s boring, but it is very, very dry.


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