A Wistful, Adult “Mr. Holmes”
By Skip Sheffield
“Mr. Holmes” is an adult film in the best sense of the word. The estimable Ian McKellen stars as a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in this wistful tale of regret and opportunities lost. McKellen is a mere lad of 76, but he is quite convincing as the world-weary Mr. Holmes, still haunted by an unsolved case 50 years ago.
The story, based on a 2005 novel “Slight Trick of the Mind” by Mitch Cullin, was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant British detective character. It is set in 1947 in the English countryside of Sussex. Holmes has retired there after the marriage of his loyal sidekick, Dr. Holmes. Holmes is lame, unable to walk without a cane, and he is becoming increasingly forgetful. He shares his house with Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), his housekeeper and her bright young son Roger (Milo Parker).
Holmes has taken to bee-keeping in his old age, and Roger is fascinated by the creatures. The story begins with Holmes puzzling over the premature death of some of his bees. When they return to the house Mrs. Munro angrily asks if Roger has been bitten. “Bees don’t bite,” Holmes replies. “They have no teeth. They sting.”
Jeffrey Hatcher’s screenplay is littered with witticisms such as that. Holmes’ son Mycroft (John Sessions) is a rising sleuth himself, but rather disengaged from his father. When Roger discovers a mysterious box in Holmes’ study, it harkens Holmes back to a case involving a Japanese man (Hiroyuko) and a beautiful, troubled young woman, Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan), who is married to a concerned Thomas Kelmot (Patrick Kennedy).
“Mr. Holmes” will connect with people who harbor lasting regrets over missed opportunities. While regret is not a constructive emotion, sometimes it is inevitable. “Sadder but wiser” is the cliché, and the sorrow is underscored by the terrible knowledge that one’s once-brilliant powers of deduction are slipping away. “Mr. Holmes” is by no means a downer, thanks to Ian Kellen’s masterful performance, coupled with strong turns by young Milo Parker and American actress Laura Linney. This is not summer fluff, but thought-provoking adult drama.