What a wonderful portrayal Mr. Holmes is of a life in its senescence, with all its joys, delights, regrets, and longing. All this without being depressing in the least. My hats off to the writers (Jeffrey Hatcher, Mitch Cullin) and director Bill Condon in being able to so creatively build on the Sherlock Holmes stories and visualize what his life might have been when the stories ended. With the inimitable McKellen in the role of Holmes, talented Linney as his frumpy housekeeper Mrs. Munro, and bright-eyed Parker as Roger, we’re completely sold on this version of Mr. Hatcher’s vision in his novel.
Holmes has become an apiary while he desperately tries to remember details of his last case, which he does recall as the reason he left the profession. But he is having trouble remembering the details. He is becoming senile, and his doctor insists that he get a housekeeper to look after him. She has a son who looks like he is about 10 or 11, and Holmes is grumpy with him until he finds the boy is bright, interested in Holmes’ stories, and above all a budding detective who ends up helping Holmes with some of his memories, as well as with the bees.
This not-quite-happy household may be about to break up because Mrs. Munro is considering taking a job at a hotel in another city where she will earn more. Moreover, she has concerns about the growing closeness that is developing between the old man and the boy; she knows Holmes is not long for this world and she wants to protect Roger from grief. A part of it, though, is that she is becoming the third wheel and is having problems sharing control and her son’s affection.
This is an intelligent film in so many ways. First of all, it is difficult to go so much in depth into old age, senility, and loss without the story becoming depressing. But here is a chance to see the “one door closes and another opens” phenomenon. Secondly, Mr. Holmes and Roger get such delight in their work together and have so much fun it offsets the more heavy considerations. Thirdly, in addition to the writing, the directing, cinematography (Tobias Schliesser) and music (Carter Burwell) all work together so well it’s a bit like a perfect match. And finally the story is reminiscent of the other Sherlock Holmes works in that we’re party again to the thrill of the sleuth, trying to solve a puzzle.
If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan at all, this is a must-see.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland