Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker
In ‘Mr Holmes’, based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, we are confronted with a very different Sherlock (McKellen). Now 93 and long retired, he resides with his housekeeper (Linney) and her precocious son Roger (Parker) in a Sussex cottage, where his primary avocation is the tending of an apiary. Through multiple flashback sequences we see both a trip to Japan in pursuit of the prickly ash plant, and his last, unsuccessful case; a defeat that haunts him. Holmes wants to rectify Watson’s erroneous account of the latter, but his great mind has begun to unravel and we are drawn into a murkiness surrounding the proceedings; are his recollections fact, false memory or wishful thinking?
The film unfurls itself slowly, and the ponderous pace certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but McKellen, Linney and Parker give staggering performances, and it is no shame that an unusual amount of screen time is devoted to these three alone. It plays cleverly with the idea of Holmes’s identity; portraying him as a real person embroidered with Watson’s fabrications, in a wink to his extant fictional status. Ultimately, the sub-plots reach unsatisfactory conclusions – causing me to speculate on alternate possibilities beyond those proffered by the film – as after all, there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.
Originally published in Crack Magazine