The Watchers

The Watchers

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Review: Mr. Holmes (UK Cert PG)

Sir Ian McKellen reunites with his Gods And Monsters director Bill Condon for Mr. Holmes, an adaptation of Mitch Cullin's novel A Slight Trick Of The Mind which features an elderly version of the great detective.

It's 1947 and the 93 year old Sherlock Holmes (McKellen) lives in retirement in Sussex with his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker). Holmes is happy with his bees, preferring to stay out of the limelight after John Watson's stories of Holmes' cases have become famous. However, after more than thirty years, he is haunted by his final case; the case which ended his career. There was always something troubling about it, something that never rang true in Watson's version of events. Holmes resolves to figure out what. Not easy when the world's greatest detective is suffering from dementia and his once sharp intellect is waning. 

McKellen plays Holmes as both the younger detective and the older, more decrepit retiree and is superb at both. The older Holmes' dementia provides some poignant moments as he tries to put the pieces back together and there is a marked physical change between the two versions of Holmes. McKellen is the kind of actor that could read the phone book and make it sound like Shakespeare and he acquits himself brilliantly in the role. 

It's a shame the same can't be said of some of the supporting cast (but that's more to do with the material than the actors). Laura Linney is a much better actress than the material she's given here and she's practically wasted in the role which has her little more than a disapproving harridan. Some facile attempts to give the character character fall flat and feel shoe-horned. Milo Parker is better in the role of Roger, luckily eschewing any precocious brat instincts and acting as a good foil for Holmes. However, both Linney and Parker suffer from wandering accent syndrome, sounding at times West Country then Irish then occasionally Scottish which is a little off-putting, to say the least.

Hattie Morahan plays Ann Kelmot, the subject of Holmes' last case, with a beautiful fragility and it's actually quite a wrenching moment when all the pieces come together and you realise the truth of the last case. There's a supporting cast of top-notch British acting talent- including Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Phil Davis, John Sessions and Frances Barber- which rounds out things nicely.

It's a well shot and well designed films, the costumes and make-up are superb and it evokes the spirit of the times in which it is set. However (and it's a big however) the script is what lets the film down. It's poorly structured and one of the main storylines- Holmes' sojourn to Japan to find a plant that is reputed to help with senile dementia- is rather weak. If it had focused on the final case alone, the film would have been stronger. 

Ultimately, this is a pleasant, slow drama which would be perfect for a Sunday evening. Whilst the plot is inconsistent, it's worth seeing for the bravura performance by McKellen. 

Rating: 3 out of 5


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