MR. HOLMES, UK, 2015, Starring Ian Mc Kellen, Milo Parker, Laura Linney, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Roger Allam, Colin Starkey, Philip Davies, Nicholas Rowe, Frances de la Tour. Directed by Bill Condon. 105 minutes. Rated M (Mature Themes).
This very entertaining film has a lot going for it, a lot of fine ingredients and all fitting together perfectly.
In a press conference, Ian Mc Kellen stated that Sherlock Holmes was the greatest Englishman who never lived. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will appreciate this film, a story of Mr Holmes who gave up his investigations 35 years earlier, regretting that he did not understand the case that he was dealing with, the personalities involved, and the sad ending to the case. He has retired to Sussex, as was mentioned in some of the stories and some of the film versions, to keep bees.
Ian Mc Kellen is a very good choice to portray Holmes. He has the opportunity to play him at age 93, in that retirement in Sussex, keeping the bees, living quietly and unobtrusively, cared for by his stern housekeeper, Mrs Munro (played plainly but subtly by Laura Linney), a war widow, with a young son, Tom (a lively Milo Parker), who sees Holmes as something of a father or grandfather-figure. It is 1947.
We learn, however, that Holmes has made a visit to Japan, searching for a herb, Prickly Ash, that, with Royal Jelly, could be a means of healing for the ailments of old age. And Holmes is not without his ailments. We do see scenes of Holmes in Japan, especially visiting Hiroshima, and some visuals of local people who had been effected by the radiation. His host, who helps him to find the Prickly Ash, also has his own story which Holmes uncovers and, rather uncharacteristically, writes a letter at the end to this Japanese man, a letter of comfort about his father who disappeared long since to work with the British.
And, there are also flashbacks to the story, in 1912, where a man comes to ask Holmes advice about his wife who is deeply disturbed after two miscarriages. Speaking of flashbacks, there are also flashbacks within this story, to illustrate and traumatise it. It also means that we see Holmes at 58, investigating the case, indulging in some of his propensity for disguises, having an emotional discussion with the distraught mother, but quite misreading the situation, something which has haunted him and is now compelling him, at age 93, to write the story. As he writes, at different stages during the film, he has discussions with young Tom who is an alert lad and offers some clues and indications of how the story might be written.
In the scenes in 1947, Mrs Munro feels that Holmes is alienating the affections of her son (and with our 21st century alertness, noticing that Laura Linney plays Mrs Munro as looking at Holmes with a look of a mother who is apprehensive that the man is a paedophile). Rather, Holmes is very supportive of Mrs Munro, teaches Tom a great deal about bees, though there is some melodrama towards the end when Tom is stung.
This is a fine Sherlock Holmes story, a portrayal of his character, and indications of mellowing as he grows older, a touch of the old investigation style, his conversation which is always strong on facts and deductive reasoning, a film that happily shows us the best of Sherlock Holmes.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film &
Released July 23rd