Mr. Holmes directed by Bill Condon, Written by Jeffery Hatcher, starring Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Mr. Holmes chronicles a retired Sherlock Holmes (an Oscar caliber McKellen) toward the end of life living on a farm in the country tending to his bees and facing the detrition of his famous wits. Despite this, Holmes tries to recount his final case that lead to his retirement because he was unhappy with the liberties that Dr. Watson took when he had written his version of the case.
What worked in Mr. Holmes was primarily the performance of Sir Ian McKellen as the aged Sherlock Holmes. McKellen, as I had stated earlier was Oscar caliber in this film, however, because come the traditional Oscar season the lead actor gets crowded. Unfortunately, McKellen will likely be left out of the race. McKellen manages to capture how someone like Holmes would deal with slowly going senile. There are times in the film where Holmes is fighting his senility with herbal remedies and does not want to accept the fact that his wits are deteriorating. There are moments where it even appears to be frustrating him, i.e. when he is failing to recall the exact details of his final case. Aside from McKellen, the supporting cast of Linney, Parker and Sanada were also fantastic. The strength of their performances manages to make a film that could have easily been just a center piece for McKellen feel like an ensemble piece. Mr. Holmes also manages to use effectively the flashback device to tell three different stories and efficiently use them. Most films that try to tell multiple stories usually end up doing a disservice to one or both of the stories because the director does not know how to balance the various stories. In Mr. Holmes Bill Condon knows how to balance all three stories that are running throughout the film. That is because Condon manages to peel the onion and avoid giving you too much too soon. Every time the story shifts from one to the other as an audience member you are left wanting to know where that story is going. Condon manages to keep peeling the onion throughout the film, and many mystery based films that I have seen recently very quickly managed to go from peeling an onion to peeling a banana. These films are giving too much too soon. Condon, with every shift, was giving you the amount of information that was just right.
While there was not much that this film has against it, there is one thing that I felt that Condon could have elaborated. Mr. Holmes assumes that Sherlock Holmes is a real person, and Dr. Watson had chronicled the cases that he and Holmes had taken on, therefore, creating the character of Sherlock Holmes. Throughout the film, it is implied that Holmes was not happy with the liberties that Watson had taken when recounting the cases. After Watson had started writing the stories that he had begun to adapt Watson’s version of Sherlock Holmes. However, this is implied through pieces of dialog between Holmes and other characters. At the end of the film, I had wanted Condon to explore how the fictional persona of Sherlock Holmes that Watson had created had impacted the real Sherlock Holmes. At the I was left wondering if the fictional persona had anything to do with the decline of Holmes’ mental faculties (I think it may have) and I wanted to see that explored more.
Mr. Holmes is a fantastic film; McKellen delivers an astonishing performance as Holmes, and he worked well with the supporting cast. All three of the plot threads perfectly balance throughout the entirety of the film, an easy 4/5.