A tiny film that will remind many of you why guys like me love the cinema.
Director Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes is a powerful film that treats the legendary screen character in a unique way. We’ve seen Sherlock played with style over the years by great actors like Basil Rathbone, Robert Downey, Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch, but imagine him being played as an elderly man facing the bottom of life’s Bell Curve. Think of James Bond in an assisted living center or Superman living in a retirement community and tell me that you are not intrigued.
The accomplished Ian McKellen, in a performance that has to be recognized at Oscar time, plays a reclusive 92-year-old Sherlock Holmes living in seclusion near the sea in England. Fighting oncoming senility, McKellen’s Holmes tries to maintain his dignity while penning an account of his last case that he is fighting to remember.
Holmes’s residence is maintained by a beleaguered caretaker who is trying to raise a young son while growing increasingly irritated with Holmes’s irascibility. The talented Laura Linney is captivating, and she again finds a way to bring glamor to a working class woman as demonstrated throughout a wonderful career.
Milo Parker plays Roger, Ms. Linney’s 12-year-old son who becomes very attached to Mr. Holmes. He enjoys helping Holmes attempt to recount his past, and the two of them are a joy to watch as they tend Holmes’s bee colony that is maintained on the property. He is likely to charm you as quickly as he did our aging sleuth.
In trying to reflect on his past, Mr. McKellen allows you to see into the heart and soul of a famous man long past his prime. Trying to come to grips with the fact that he has always lived alone, the discovery of the shocking conclusion of his last assignment, which is dramatically relived through flashbacks, leave him emotionally overwhelmed. Let me just say that this moment brought tears to the eyes of most of those in the theater.
Mr. McKellen’s performance transcends the magic he displayed as Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s colossal films The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) and The Hobbit trilogy (2012-2014). Having spent much of his career in those blockbusters, not to mention playing Magneto in the X-Men films, his performance here as Holmes is an experience to treasure.