Possible spoilers ahead!
Over the last few years there’s been a few versions of Sherlock Holmes. We had the two Robert Downey Jr. movies, the awesomeness of “Sherlock,” and the paint by numbers version in “Elementary.”
With such a packed field, it would be very difficult for a new entry to stand out. Especially one that’s very different from all the rest. But 2015’s “Mr. Holmes” stood out in several ways I did not expect.
“Mr. Holmes” is set in 1947, as a 93-year old Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) now spends his days at his remote farmhouse in the Sussex countryside, tending to bees. By now, Holmes’ memory has started to fade, but he attempts to counter-act this by consuming royal jelly, and a rare substance known as prickly ash that he gathered from a recent trip to Japan.
In the film, Holmes is trying to remember the details of his final case, one which involved a troubled married woman named Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan). Holmes, with assistance from his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and especially her young son Roger (Milo Parker), sets out to recover the missing pieces of the true story behind his retirement, as opposed to the version written by the late Dr. John Watson. What Mr. Holmes discovers in the process changes the way he looks back on his fame, his time as a the world’s best detective, and even his love life.
As I mentioned earlier, there have been multiple iterations of the Sherlock Holmes character in recent years, but “Mr. Holmes” stands out as a unique addition to the Sherlock Holmes legacy.
This movie is not about a case like other Sherlock Holmes films. It is instead, a quiet period drama about an aging man who just happens to be Sherlock Holmes. And for the first time, I got to see different facets of the Holmes character, and came to the realization that as brilliant as he is, he’s still just a man.
The film successfully juggles multiple stories set in the past with the main plot set in the present, by way of flashbacks that generally arise organically from Holmes’ efforts to piece together a life that he can no longer remember.
In “Mr. Holmes,” Sir Ian McKellen delivers yet another strong performance, playing an elderly Sherlock Holmes who is struggling to reconcile the man he was with the person that everyone believes him to be (thanks to a Doctor Watson). But even at age 93, McKellen ‘s Sherlock Holmes still possesses plenty of his wits and quirks to make him feel like ‘the real Sherlock’.
Milo Parker as Roger (the maid’s son) turns out to be something of a young Sherlock, and its in Roger that Mr. Holmes finds his best friend since his time with Watson.
Some may call this friendship predictable, but I enjoyed the scenes between Roger and Mr. Holmes. It truly seemed like the two became friends on the film.
Laura Linney as Roger’s uneducated, working-class mother and Holmes’ housekeeper brings emotional weight to her role in the story. Linney is really good in this movie, so good I didn’t even recognize her when she first pops up.
In the end, “Mr. Holmes” is a solid period drama that is anchored by the always great Ian McKellen. This is one Sherlock Holmes tale that is unlike any other that’s been released in recent years, and one of the more underrated.
“Mr. Holmes” final score: 8.5