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Mr. Holmes (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

MR HOLMES

Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Mitch Cullin (novel), Jeffrey Hatcher (screenplay)
Stars: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan

The movie Mr. Holmes is set in 1947, following a long retired Holmes (Ian McKellen) living in a Sussex village with his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker).

Based on a novel called “A Slight Trick of the Mind” by Mitch Cullin catches Holmes in his later years recollecting his last case from 30 years previously in which a desperate but angry man named Thomas Kelmot (Patrick Kennedy) seeks Holmes assistance in investigating his wife Ann (Hattie Morahan) who he believes is acting oddly. Sadly for Holmes his memory isn’t what it used to be and only remembers fragments of the case.

For Holmes his own therapy in remembering is keeping his journal up to date and visiting Japan and meeting with Tamiki Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada) who can help him with an ancient remedy from a rare plant known only to grow in Japan called the Prickly Ash.

This is the theme of the movie that moves back and forth between three sub plots. In my opinion the most interesting sub plot was the relationship between the elder Sherlock Holmes, Mrs Munro and her son Roger. It appeared to me that Holmes in this incarnation was fed up with people, living almost hermit like and was content in Irving out his days in Sussex. Early on in this movie you could sense the mutual respect that the young boy Roger had for Holmes and vice versa. Roger enjoyed reading Holmes journals (in which he broke into his study to read them and surprisingly Holmes wasn’t all that fussed) and Holmes seemed to perk up when the youngster quizzed the elderly man on what happened next.

The other mutual interest the pair had was for Holmes hobby of beekeeping or “apiculture.” Holmes would educate Roger on a Bees purpose and how they lived their lives.

Ian McKellen does not disappoint in the role of Sherlock Holmes and emerges himself in the role as a charismatic, subtle, stubborn and melancholy version of the famous character remembering his dear friend “John” (Mr Watson) who wrote Holmes’ adventures and it’s here we learn that Holmes choice of hat was never a Tweed Deerstalker and his choice of smoke was a Cigar instead of the well characterised smoking pipe. McKellen portrays Holmes at both 60 and in his 90’s with the great care to the character and respect. Which would become all too easy of McKellan’s caliberas one of the most charismatic and talented actors of his generation.

He  proves his acting abilities as he gives a moving and heartfelt performance as a man twenty years older than he is even now. He seems weak and struggles with not wanting to let go of his life as the 90 year old man but portrays a more distinguished version of the same character in flashbacks as a more well manicured Holmes who also mentally is sharper in his heyday. McKellen is fascinating to watch in this movie and I enjoyed his performance.

Playing young Roger is Milo Parker, Holmes’ young beekeeping apprentice and “friend”, was amazing who for such a young age is close to matching McKellen in every scene they share. Parker is enjoyable to watch and arguably steals the show . He holds his own opposite McKellan and is absolutely brilliant as the wide eyed, vivacious little boy that Holmes takes under his wing.

Laura Linney, as Mrs Munro did a fantastic job considering for the first half didn’t have much to do but the character redeems herself for the finale of the film. Linney is almost unrecognisable as Holmes housekeeper in her acting ability and physically. I first saw Linney opposite Jim Carey in The Truman Show as his “Wife” and always associated her in these type of roles. Here she portrays a woman with a hard exterior looking for a better life away from the cranky and sometimes ungrateful Holmes. Linney shines in the role in the third act as the protective mother to Roger and adds a remarkable performance in playing a downtrodden English woman.

Hattie Morahan does a great job as the woman that Sherlock is trying to remember about (Ann Kelmot), and her character just does something so beautifully tragic that you can’t help but feel somewhat sorry for her and sad at the end of the film. The role is very small and turns out to be a sub plot but Hattie Morahan shows great emotion and range in her small role.

Director Bill Condon’s Handling of the character of Holmes is considerate and understanding. Especially the older version of the character. The audience at no point should feel confused as the story flits between the 90 year old Holmes in his farmhouse to the previous 60 year old investigating Ann to Holmes search for the Prickly Ash. Condon keeps the audience guessing at every opportunity on whether or not Holmes will recollect the important details in his last case or not.

Cinematography and locations for shooting in this film is stunning and authentic. Especially the shots of Holmes and Roger down by the coast look glorious, and the Sussex farmhouse in which Sherlock has retired looks beautiful and peaceful.

“Mr. Holmes” is a different take on his story. It is sentimental (not a criticism) and I think it is a fair representation of one of the greatest detectives in fictional history. The script felt natural and real, and when at times dialogue needed to be told through exposition and such, it never felt forced. I highly recommend “Mr Holmes” for anyone who is a fan of the famous detective and if not then for the brilliant Ian McKellan. A must watch.