Festival Review: Mr Holmes (2015)

Mr Holmes

With a bright-eyed performance from Ian McKellen, Bill Condon’s Mr Holmes is a handsome portrait of the detective as an old man.

His Last Bow

by Mark Wilshin

Mr Holmes

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

A fictional addendum to the literary universe of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Bill Condon’s Mr Holmes isn’t entirely dissimilar from his James Whale biopic Gods And Monsters, what with its casting of Ian McKellen and his character’s strong bond to his staff. Switching spontaneously between daily life at his Kent country home, the story of his last case and the memories of his last trip to Japan in search of the restorative elixir ‘prickly ash’, Mr Holmes isn’t so much the story of one elderly bright spark’s coming to terms with the loss of memory, but rather the humanisation of the master detective, learning at the eleventh hour to lie in order to protect another person’s feelings – emotional intelligence after a lifetime of logical deductions. It’s the confluence that brings all three streams together, as Holmes learns from the cold mistakes that sent him into self-imposed exile, even writing a fiction for his Japanese correspondent Mr Umusake in order to make good his father’s abandonment of his family. But structured around this trajectory of humanism, it’s a rather underwhelming addition to the opus that the master detective needs to learn to care. Ian McKellen is brilliant – stern, decrepit, sprightly and impish, but despite intelligent direction and a carefully crafted script, Mr Holmes just isn’t quite as clever as its hero.

Mr Holmes is now showing at the 65th Berlin Film Festival

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