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Mr. Holmes – Review


Release Date: 17 July 2015 [USA]
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Arthur Conan Doyle [Characters] - Jeffrey Hatcher [Screenplay] - Mitch Cullin [Novel]
Cast: Ian McKellen - Laura Linney - Hiroyuki Sanada



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Posted June 25, 2015 by

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Mr Holmes Review:

Bill Condon’s adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s Sherlock story A Slight Trick of the Mind begins with a 93-year old Mr. Holmes (Sir Ian McKellen) correcting a young boy on a train that the bee he’s looking at out the window is in fact a wasp. “Different thing entirely”, Holmes says under his breath, just as blunt and anal as he’s always been.

Sherlock has retired to picture-postcard Sussex and lives with his house keeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker). He busies himself with keeping bees, who provide him with royal jelly (a substance Sherlock hopes will restore his failing memory), and by trying to rewrite Watson’s account of his last case, the case which caused him to retire. The details of said case, which happened decades ago, elude him and Sherlock strives to recollect before his time comes to an end.

Know from the beginning that this Sherlock story is not the stuff of Downey Jnr or Cumberbatch. There’s no pugilism or gunfights or psychopaths. This is Sherlock of old (Very old). The tale is all about the detective himself, with the writing focusing not on the most electrifying plot twists but on sheer depth of character.

The pace is slow and may try the patience of an ignorant audience (I was the only person at my showing. Just how I like it). While the TV miniseries is known for its breakneck speed and crazy editing and the Guy Ritchie movies brim with action and comedy, this is an intense, slow-burning fuse of a drama. Mr. Holmes also takes some of Sherlock’s most famous tropes and turns them on their heads (he never wore a deerstalker, Watson made it up. He never lived at 221B, he lived on the opposite side of Baker Street).

Much of the story is told via flashbacks, of Sherlock’s recent visit to Hiroshima and of the case in question several decades ago. The spacing between flashbacks is incredibly even, with each shift in setting feeling like a treat.

The set design is impeccable. No doubt holiday makers will be fighting to book Sherlock’s Sussex retreat for the summer. His study is more cosy loft than mind palace. The Japanese settings are markedly different from Post-War England. The sight of Sherlock passing American GI’s on the street indicates a bizarre crossing of periods. The Hiroshima scenes are easily the most arresting, with Sherlock’s horrified expressions amplifying their impact.

Sir Ian McKellen’s performances are terrific, plural being apt as he plays two Sherlocks, past and present. As present Sherlock, his movements are decrepit and his speech is even grislier than on Gandalf’s grumpiest day. His despair over a failing memory will tug on your heartstrings. This is Sherlock at his most compassionate too, perhaps a change too late in life. Often the best expression comes from merely the wrinkles on his face.

The make-up department done a phenomenal job, only truly apparent when you see Sherlock of the past. Gone are the liver-spots and the bags under the eyes. His youthfulness and energy are striking, despite being a character of around 60-something. His voice swoops like a velvet cloak. He darts through hidden doorways and down spiral staircases that would cripple his older self. He cuts one hell of a figure in his day-time attire and spiffing top-hat. McKellen is simply marvellous for every moment he’s on screen.

Backing him up are two incredibly strong performances from Laura Linney and Milo Parker. Linney plays housekeeper Mrs. Munro, a widower, a caring mother and an incredibly hard-working woman. She occasionally grumbles over chores and she’s not the brightest person on the planet, a feature that irritates her much brighter son beyond belief. Parker is a wonderful young actor, effortlessly holding his own around the legendary McKellen. His character Roger is more than just an impressionable heir. He’s a child headed towards his teens and all the bumps that come with it. He’s arrogant, impatient, intolerant, wanting to spend all his time with the famous Mr. Holmes and resenting his mother for not being a sharper person, all the while she lives the life she does to provide for him. Mrs. Munro and her son’s relationship is strained, doting and incredibly believable.

In this latest depiction of the master sleuth, Sherlock must tackle a problem that’s plagued him all his long life, not one of logic but one of human emotion. This is indeed an emotional tale, very sad and at times quite shocking. If perhaps you tire of Sherlock’s action-packed shenanigans and want to spend some quiet time getting to know the man better then give this a try. Different thing entirely.


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Written by:


Michael Keyes
Silences Band
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