Film Review by Fiore
Sherlock Holmes is one of the fictitious characters I love. Through novels, short stories, TV shows and movies, he has undergone myriad alterations; some are creative and innovative, others are nothing more than a writer’s animosity and rancor for an inability to create such a timeless character. Holmes has teamed with some of history’s noted figures, such as Dr. Sigmund Freud in THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION, and Jack the Ripper in A STUDY IN TERROR. He has been modernized, and presented with a female oriental Dr. Watson in TV’s ELEMENTARY, and taken advantage of the digital age in the BBC’s much better production of SHERLOCK with the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch, with a B. He has taken the guise of Sir Basil Rathbone, Robert Downey, Jr., Jeremy Brett, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to name a few; and now Ian McKellen joins the ranks of actors to reside at 221B Baker Street. The name of the film is MR. HOLMES and it adds a rather sad story to the Sherlock saga.
Sherlock Homes (McKellen) is experiencing emotional trauma. He has lost everyone of value in his life and his deductive reasoning powers cannot help him cope with his loneliness. He retreats to a cottage inn, under the care of a new housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, played by Laura Linney, and her young son Roger, played by Milo Parker. Young Roger becomes enamored with the famous detective, enjoying the intellectual discussions he can have with Holmes, but not have with his mother. Holmes, after three decades of living under the allusion of Dr. John Watson’s dime novel stories, decides he must tell one truthful adventure, in his own hand, before his demise. The problem is, he cannot remember the facts of the story. Is it because the great detective is finally losing his prodigious powers of reasoning, or is a more psychological element preventing his recollections?
MR. HOLMES is based on “A Simple Trick of the Mind”, which I read a few years back. Jeffrey Hatcher pens the adaptation with more emphasis on dementia than the original tale. The change allows McKellen to stretch his thespian wings, rather than the almost Mr. Spock like characterizations most are familiar with. In essence, what Hatcher does, is turn the story into a celebration of abandoning logos in favor of pathos. Holmes supposedly grows in character for learning the value of preserving one’s emotions, regardless of facts. It is most illogical.
The story, which centers on Holmes’ last case, dubbed “The Lady in Grey”, features Dr. Watson’s version of the affair, Holmes’ truthful version, the difference between bees and wasps, and a subplot involving Tamiki Umezaki, played by Hroyuki Sanada, and his obsession with Holmes for the loss of his father. All of this circles around the basic difference between bees and wasps. The stories are intertwined, and Director Bill Condon manages to retain the viewers’ attention by leaping from one tale to the other at frequent intervals.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. The discussion with Ann on the park bench.
2. Holmes’ revelation of Mrs. Munro’s day.
3. The train car discussion.
As Sherlock Holmes stories go, MR. HOLMES is not one of the strongest. There is a fine performance by McKellen, but then viewers would expect no less from such a talent. While the film is evenly paced, it tends to be more of a slaggy British drama than a Holmesian adventure. It’s worth a look for Holmes fans, but not something the general public would gravitate towards.
THE GRADE FOR MR. HOLMES = C