The Anglophile in me really comes out when anything to do with Sherlock Holmes is presented. Whether it's Basil Rathbone, Benedict Cumberbatch or even the original Robert Downey, Jr./Jude Law adaptation
(not the sequels) --- I love them all. Director Bill Condon reunites with Ian McKellen, whom he directed in "Gods and Monsters" (1998), and the result,
"Mr. Holmes", is well worth the wait.
"Mr. Holmes" depicts an ageing Sherlock, in 1947, recently returned from a quest to find a certain plant, the prickly ash, in Japan, which supposedly possesses restorative powers. Sherlock is wrestling with memory loss, a condition which has left him depressed and forlorn.
Forsaking his famous Baker Street address, Sherlock has moved to a seaside residence to live out his days tending his bees. A succession of housekeepers has brought about his current hire, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker). Not one for emotional attachments, Sherlock has managed to alienate all of his past employees, and he's not faring much better with Mrs. Munro.
But Roger is a different story. He's a bright boy with a keen mind, and very interested in Sherlock and his past cases. There is one mystery which still haunts Sherlock, and he is determined to find the answers before he dies. Roger is instrumental in aiding Sherlock with his memory and his bees. The two forge an unlikely but meaningful and mutually respectful relationship.
Therein lies the key to the success of "Mr. Holmes". McKellen is clearly the right choice to portray Holmes in his advanced years --- and he is simply marvelous, as always. He and Condon were anxious to collaborate again, and they work together beautifully. McKellen is so multi-talented. Here he is divine as the frightened, confused aged Holmes, while on PBS in "Vicious", he is hilarious as Freddy Thornhill, half of an elderly gay couple living in London. One of his neighbors from that show, Violet, played by Frances de la Tour, appears in "Mr. Holmes" as a music teacher.
It is Parker, however, who brings just the right amount of emotions and intelligence to his role. He and McKellen are well matched. It's obvious from watching him over all these years, that McKellen would never overact, or allow his character to become maudlin, so the questionable performance would potentially lie with Parker. With his unusual facial features and large expressive eyes, Parker does wonders playing against McKellen. It's immensely satisfying to watch their friendship develop, against Mrs. Munro's wishes.
Linney, one of the finest actors period, is amazing. She's unfortunately getting to that age when it becomes more difficult for great female actors to find decent roles. But Mrs. Munro is perfect for her, and her importance to the film becomes more evident as "Mr. Holmes" progresses.
It is so refreshing to watch a beautiful film, with gorgeous cinematography thanks to Tobias Schliessler. The landscapes outside of Rye near the Sussex coast are incredibly breathtaking, and Schliessler manages to capture them brilliantly.
Add to that the work done by production designer Martin Childs, costume designer Keith Madden and the exceptional soundtrack composed by Carter Burwell, and you have a memorable movie-going experience. Every time Condon and his crew featured the huge black locomotive steaming its way through the English countryside, I got chills.
"Mr. Holmes" is a lovely-to-look-at movie with outstanding acting. No car chases, loud noises, extended fight scenes --- and, best of all, no 3-D special effects. It is a joy to behold and well worth the effort to find it ---wherever it may be playing.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
"Mr. Holmes" is a very moving look, fictional, of course, at Sherlock Holmes in the twilight of his life, featuring a marvelous performance by old pro Ian McKellen. Holmes lives in a seaside cottage outside London, with a housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son, Roger (Miles Parker).
Cleverly edited flashbacks reveal Holmes' search for a rare Japanese herb called prickly ash which he thinks will cure him of his growing forgetfulness, akin to Alzheimer's. To occupy his time and assuage his loneliness, Holmes maintains a modest apiary. When Roger asks if he's ever been bit, Holmes says that bees sting --- they don't bite because they have no teeth. This is typical of the entertaining repartee between Holmes and the boy as they develop a deep fondness for each other.
But there is a much graver element to this story, centering around Holmes' last case as a detective some 30 years earlier. When a man (Patrick Kennedy) asks him to follow his wife (Hattie Morahan) to see why she's acting mysteriously, it highlights Holmes' final attempt to solve a dilemma, albeit not a crime. Unfortunately his typically logical reasoning, as he confronts the woman, has tragic consequences which affect Holmes greatly, and he has overwhelming guilt many years later accepting his role in the outcome.
McKellen, at 76, is the consummate performer. While he'll always be Gandalf to many, his versatility as an actor is amazing. We can look forward to his role as Cogsworth in yet another version of "Beauty and the Beast" due out in 2017. "Mr. Holmes" reunites McKellen with director Bill Condon from their collaboration on the 1998 critically acclaimed "Gods and Monsters".
Linney is always reliable and it's a shame she doesn't get more work. This is her first film in two years. She is imminently watchable on screen, always moving effortlessly within the arc of the story. She peaks in this film when her son gets himself into trouble, emitting the soulful wale of a concerned mother.
As Roger, Parker is a revelation. He makes credible the unlikely relationship between a young boy and a nonagenarian. His upcoming two movies include the film version of the New York Times #1 Best Seller "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children".
The first striking thing you notice with this beautiful film is the music. It's a glorious soundtrack of original compositions by Carter Burwell. And Jeanne, I'm sure, will wax eloquent about the English countryside she loves so much.
"Mr. Holmes" is one of those small films that grows on the viewer ever so gradually. The three main characters are all people we care about. By the end, when one of them is in dire physical jeopardy, we anxiously wait for the miraculous recovery that appears all but hopeless.
Opinion: See It Now!