Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Phillip Davis, Frances de la Tour, Charles Maddox, Takako Akashi, and more.
Directed by: Bill Condon Screenplay by: Jeffrey Hatcher Based on the Novel by: Mitch Cullin Based on Characters Created by: Arthur Conan Doyle Cinematography by: Tobias A. Schliessler Music by: Carter Burwell
Premise: 93 year old Sherlock Holmes is living in the country, caring for bees and trying different methods with which to combat the growing gaps in his memory. He's befriended by the housekeeper's son, Roger, who encourages Holmes to write the true story of his last case - the one which drove him to stop being a detective, and one whose particulars he can no longer recollect. (Rated PG)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Ian McKellen was outstanding in this film. Playing a character aged 93 and then the same character 30 years prior, he did a marvelous job showing vitality in the latter, and growing disability in the former. He also masterfully intertwined some mannerism from Jeremy Brett when first greeting his client for this final case (the way he sat was so familiar it sent shivers of familiarity over my skin).
Laura Linney played a very subdued, yet vital part as Mrs. Munro, Sherlock's current housekeeper. Between fear for her and her son's future, putting up with Holmes, and her deep anger at the husband who died on them in the war, she adds a wonderful layer to film. As her relationship shift and changes between her, her son, and her difficult employer, she shifts between enemy, employee, and more.
Milo Parker was a total delight. His emotions were easy to read - his eagerness as his young mind clamps onto the opportunity to have discourse with such a learned man and learn from him - his anger at the betrayal he feels at his mother. The fact he's found his place, yet realizing others might have different plans, whether he likes them or not.
Those who've watched a lot of BBC programs will find a lot of familiar faces in the film. :)
2) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: This is not a happy story - nothing dealing with the diminishing faculties of one's mind could ever be - so if you hate that kind of thing, this film is not for you. I felt it ended in a high note (as high as you could get with your faculties still going down hill), but hubby did not feel the same at all.
I thought there was a lot to love about the film. It's based on a novel called A Slight Trick of the Mind. I've not read it, so I can't say one way or another on how faithful the film was to the novel - though this type of thing normally works better in a written form.
Sherlock Holmes fans will find a lot to like. Lots of little quips, name dropping, points of contention and pokes of fun. And of course something most of us never envision - The Man himself having to fight the biggest crime to humanity and unable to do a thing about it - the deterioration of a mind.
Reality merges and clashes as Sherlock tries to recover bits and clumps of memory he's lost. Using the pretext of wanting to write a story about his last case, Sherlock realizes the boy is a catalyst and he might finally be able to do as he's been wanting to for some time. As he struggles with this, another mystery or two arise, and at times these mix up together in his mind.
The pace is slow, the audiences getting the same bits and pieces as Sherlock, and even other hints totally unseen by the great detective, as they are too close to home. I thought it worked well for the piece, but others might not.
3) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: The seaside farm house in Sussex, England was a beautiful spot for the central location of the film. The flashback scenes on his last case were set in London - including the location for 221B Baker Street. The scenes in Japan were done there and in the UK. Hiroshima years after the bombings still reeled from the war, the forests nothing but ash, and we even get a view of the iconic domed building from that city. These great locations and the attention to detail gave the film lots of flavor.
4) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: The makeup work on this film was superb! Integrated with Mr. McKellen's fabulous acting work, they totally sold the image of a 93 year old Sherlock vs. one 30 years younger and both played by the same man. The film had a lot of close ups, so scrutiny was immediate - and it was perfect. Major kudos! The costuming was also top notch work. The mixed Eastern and Western styles in 1947 occupied Japan, British styles for both 1917 and 1947. The clothes made easy markers for the audience to keep them grounded in the particular year being covered.
Conclusion: Mr. Holmes is a slow, simmering film placing the greatest detective mind ever known to deal with the same issues and fears suffered by anyone with a diminishing brain capacity. I would suggest bringing a hanky, just in case. A different viewpoint for Sherlock Holmes fans, but the style and pacing may not be to the tastes of all movie watchers.
Rating: 3.75 out of 4 (Hubby's Rating: Better for Matinee)
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