Review: Mr. Holmes


Director:Bill Condon

Cast:Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada

Running Time:104 Minutes


Set at a remote farmhouse not far from the sea in 1947, Bill Condon's Mr. Holmes tackles a new era for the world's most famous detective -- retirement.  Coping with the diminishing powers of the mind, Holmes finds himself striking up a strong friendship with his housekeeper's young son.  Together they revisit the old case that forced him into retirement, working hard to better understand the mysteries that have eluded the detective all his life: life, love and happiness.

Though simplistic in nature, Mr. Holmes offers up a heavily layered complexity that keeps you engaged from start to finish.  Helped tremendously by a brilliant performance from Sir Ian McKellen, Sherlock Holmes has never seemed so authentic and grounded.  For the first time, his struggles are human and his character flaws believable.  Ultimately, this allows his triumph to be all the more victorious as he painfully works to understand the one case that has troubled him for over fifty years.

The film scores high marks for incorporating Holmes' popularity into the story.  A brief, albeit thorough explanation of his presence in the books and movies quickly sets the tone for what is to come; not to mention his matter-of-face justification for not wearing a top hat will have fans beaming from ear to ear.  But more than his fame, the film painlessly navigates through past and present, allowing the talents of McKellen to shine bright as he maneuvers between a frail, aging man and a young, sharp, agile detective.  The extended flashbacks keep the story fresh, giving us a second story arc to follow as we await the outcome of the case.  But it also helps us understand the man that Holmes has become, providing a deeper look into a time and place where he was unable to help someone who needed it most.

Both Laura Linney and Milo Parker support McKellen well.  Neither rise to extraordinary levels; however, within the framework of the film I'm not quite sure they were meant to.  But they do hold their own as Mr. Holmes' housekeeper and her intuitive son.  It is their relationship that proves the most underdeveloped.  While there are snippets of information, no full history is ever presented. As a result we are left with countless questions, making us ponder just how they became a mainstay in Holmes' life.

That being said, Mr. Holmes ultimately excels thanks to stellar writing, heartwarming characters and a flawless cast.  And while there aren't any explosions, robots or superhero powers, the film is a valiant win for deep, creative storytelling.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.

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