Film Review: Mr Holmes

Summary (from IMDb): An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes looks back on his life, and grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman.

I was expecting to find this film difficult to watch because the thought of Sherlock Holmes with dementia is bad enough (I was unable to finish reading the book it was based on because it distressed me so much) never mind watching Sir Ian McKellan portray it with his usual depth and feeling. And it was difficult, to a degree (I certainly found myself tearing up in parts) but I didn’t go to pieces in the way I was expecting. This had nothing to do with Sir Ian, whose performance was as fantastic and realistic as I had expected, and everything to do with the scripting of the book for the big screen. There was more hope and gladness in the film for one thing and I have been assured (by a friend who did make it to the end of the book) that the ending was changed much for the better – I certainly found the ending uplifting and was smiling through the tears.

Set in 1947, the film finds Holmes at 93, returning to his retirement cottage on the Sussex Coast after trip to Japan. He’s living alone (bar his housekeeper and her son), Watson is dead, and his mind is starting to fail. It is not an auspicious beginning but Sir Ian’s portrayal of an ageing Holmes would have been more than enough to enthral me even if the film had not been beautifully and evocatively shot. What really captured me, though, was Holmes growing friendship with Roger, his housekeeper’s son. It was a joy to behold and I recommend keeping an eye out for Milo Parker (who played Roger) in the future; I certainly think he’ll be one to watch if he remains in the acting profession. I also cannot praise Laura Linney’s portrayal of Mrs Munroe (Holmes’ housekeeper) enough; the way showed a woman still trying to cope with the loss of her husband, putting on a brave face to the rest of the world whilst terrified she’d lose her only son as well, sent shivers up my spine. I was also lovely to see, if somewhat briefly, Roger Allam as Holmes’ long suffering doctor.

Scripting and directing were also excellent, particularly the way the story from many years ago (which Holmes was trying to remember and is the heart of the plot) was woven into the present and the recent past. Holmes very visible horror at what the atomic bomb had done to Hiroshima and the Japanese people was also incredibly moving and I was glad it had been included.

Overall I enjoyed Mr Holmes far more than I thought I was going to and I would recommend it to all Holmes fans and anyone who enjoys period pieces shot and acted par excellence!

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