I’m too sick with a virus to take advantage of these beautiful summer days, which explains how I ended up at the 1:30pm showing of the charming film “Mr. Holmes” on its opening day. I’m a fan of both Sherlock Holmes and of Ian McKellen, who plays a very aged version of Holmes, so what could go wrong? Very little did.
Let me set the scene: It is 1947 and Holmes, having screwed up his last case, has retired years ago in consternation to his Sussex country home to attend to his bee hives. His housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker) look after him. Precocious young Roger becomes more and more attached to an increasingly feeble Holmes and takes over quite a bit of the beekeeping. The exquisite seaside landscape is also a crucial character in the story.
In fact there are two cases he is struggling to recall, despite his failing memory. One involved a Japanese family and the other a beautiful young Englishwoman. The acting is superb. However, there is something off-key in the early relationship of Mrs. Munro to Holmes, whom she seems to dislike – at least off and on – without any reason the viewer can discern. I fault Director Bill Condon here: he has done much less with her character than Linney deserves.
The continuous close-ups of the wrinkles and blemishes of a very old face are moving, especially with McKellen’s bright blue eyes glowing undiminished. While there are crises, there’s also a happy ending. The film is sentimental but not sappy. It was the perfect choice for an afternoon in which I felt lethargic and longed to be entertained.