Overview: A 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes desperately attempts to stave off the deterioration of his mind as he works to recollect the case that pushed him into retirement and loneliness. Miramax/Roadside Attractions; 2015; Rated PG; 104 minutes.
Education Never Ends: Fans of the world’s most legendary detective have become accustomed to a regurgitation of this character that revolves around Sherlock’s pompous wit, coupled with Watson’s exasperated compassion, wrapped up with a fast paced whodunit, with a solution that’s both undeniably logical and unbelievably preposterous. But, above all, every iteration of Holmes is thickly laced with an emphasis on the sharpness of his mind. All of these common denominators are deliberately absent in Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes, leaving us with a stripped down, aged, and often fragile version of a man who has cheated death and shown little interest in human emotion. But now, without Watson and without his razor sharp powers of deduction and observation, he must solve the most important case of his life.
Knowledgeable Ignorance: As Holmes loses his grip on his memory, he frantically struggles to preserve his mind and bridge the gap between his past and his present to come to terms with his own perpetual loneliness. The duality of who Sherlock has always been and who he is becoming is illustrated with a gorgeous melancholy and proud tenderness by Ian McKellen. He shifts seamlessly between the sharp, quick-witted egoist at the top of his crime solving game, with his piercing eyes and wry smirk, and the weak, desperate, dying man, those same eyes now lost, glisten with fear and unfamiliarity.
A Sick Man is But a Child: The unexpected shining star that emerges from this film is Milo Parker as Roger, the son of Sherlock’s housekeeper. Sherlock builds a paternal attachment to Roger, whose innocence, admiration, and curiosity both empowers Holmes and leaves him vulnerable. Milo relentlessly pleads with Sherlock to finish penning his own retelling of his last case and constantly requests, “Do that thing you do, where you tell people who they are and where they’ve been.” What Milo doesn’t realize, however, is that at the same time he’s helping Sherlock finally discover his own answers to these questions. In the process, these two unlikely friends, the old and the young, the jaded and the innocent, the hopeless and the hopeful, grow and find peace in who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going.
Overall: Mr. Holmes is an exceptional and unique addition to the vast collection of Sherlock Holmes’ journeys, rich with respect for its predecessors and bold in its thoughtful and reflective approach.