Two years after WWII, our long retired eponymous hero (Ian McKellen) is living his twilight years in a remote Sussex farmhouse. When he’s not tending to his bees or bonding with his housekeeper’s inquisitive son (excellent newcomer Milo Parker), Holmes attempts to reconstruct and solve his last case before his mind fails him for good.
Another Sherlock Holmes story? What with the Guy Ritchie films, the BBC TV show and its American counterpart, audiences may be starting to experience Conan Doyle fatigue. Thankfully, Mr. Holmes does something fresh: Bill Condon reunites with McKellen 17 years after Gods and Monsters and delivers a charming faux-biopic of a real human being, as opposed to the über-trendy supersleuth modern viewers have been craving. McKellen is utterly convincing, depicting the haunted 93-year old detective as a curmudgeonly man who struggles not only with dementia, but also with loneliness and the weight of his own legend.
Those expecting a pacey whodunnit and some Moriarty shenanigans will be disappointed: this is no thrilling romp and the main antagonist is time. And wasps. However, while sometimes too broadly melancholic, Mr. Holmes is a beautifully shot period piece, championed by its elegant direction and a masterful central performance.
Mr. Holmes | Directed by Bill Condon (UK, 2015) with Ian McKellen, Laura Linney. Starts December 24
Originally published in issue #144, December 2015.