There’s something about Sherlock Holmes that feels impossible not to love, so I was eager to experience a new imagining of the world-renowned logician. Loosely adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, ‘Mr Holmes’ shows Holmes at 93, living in retirement in Sussex, 1947 and exasperated at the way he has been misrepresented in Watson’s accounts of his famous cases – particularly his last case ever.
Mr Holmes weaves together three timelines beautifully and occasionally disjointedly to demonstrate Holmes’ failing memory. It follows Holmes after his retirement while he lives in isolation with his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her son (Milo Parker) and tries to recall his final case – the case that drove him to retirement. It also gives us glimpses of Holmes’ time in Japan with Mr Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada) as he hunts down the illusive Prickly Ash to aid with his memory, and of course slowly unravels the case Holmes is so desperate to remember through flash backs of what actually happened.
Ian McKellen portrays quite a different Sherlock Holmes than I have become accustomed to. It was easy to forget that in reality, Mckellen is still rather spritely and able to move around with ease, as 93-year old Holmes was clearly not. No longer confident in his greatest asset (his brain) due to what could be dementia, Holmes seems to have more room for warmth and empathy. This is wonderfully demonstrated through the relationship he develops with Roger, his housekeeper’s very intelligent son who desires to be like him and helps him with his beehives. Milo Parker did a brilliant job as Roger. Bright and eager like you would expect of a boy at his age, but also with a wisdom and thoughtfulness beyond his years. He’s a perfect companion for an aging Holmes in need of someone to keep him motivated to write the story of his last case – a case involving an aggrieved husband, Thomas Kelmot (Patrick Kennedy); his depressive, childless wife (Hattie Morahan); and a strange musical instrument, (a glass armonica), with possible occult powers. Linney, in her third teaming with director Bill Condon, is wonderful as Mrs Munroe, the rather simple, proud and devoted mother of Roger.
‘Mr Holmes’ is the journey of Sherlock realising and embracing that intellect alone cannot solve all problems and that sometimes there is a very real need for fiction. It feels like the perfect last mystery, containing the greatest lesson for Mr Holmes and the audience alike!