Monday, July 20, 2015

A Reel Review: MR. HOLMES

Joseph Campbell, the famous writer, lecturer, and mythologist, once wrote extensively about the relationships between the elderly and the young; specifically, how one person at the end of their life can connect so well with a person at the beginning of theirs. The young and the old finding inspiration from each other has been done to death in film, but in the case of Bill Condon’s MR. HOLMES, the approach has never been executed better. 

World famous detective Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen), is now 93 years old and living in a countryside retirement with his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker). With his memory failing him, Holmes seeks a homemade remedy to fill-in the forgotten details of an old case which he never solved. 

Based on the 2005 novel by Mitch Cullin, MR. HOLMES is a take on the classic character that we’ve never seen before. His old friend Dr. Watson, who in this version wrote the books based on his adventures, is long dead…and with his memory failing him, he is facing challenges without two of his most powerful weapons. The naturally developing relationship between Holmes and young Roger serves a grand purpose in the story as the young man is the only thing which can inspire him to remember the vital missing details of the case, which gives a fresh take on an old cinematic storyline of old men and kids learning from each other. 

The relationship between the two is only one storyline out of the three that MR. HOLMES evolves into, as the film explores Holmes’ efforts to restore his memory and solve the case. A series of long flashbacks unfolds as the great detective slowly begins to remember, and it often feels like three different movies are going on. But director Bill Condon allows the film to breath and the storylines complement each other very well. There is a grand mystery afoot in MR. HOLMES; not one that involves a super-villain with a dastardly plot, but one which holds great importance to Sherlock Holmes, and that makes the solving all the more important. Characters are developed naturally and nicely throughout the film, making the overall story not just a mystery-solver but a character study. 

Condon shows tremendous patience in unfolding MR. HOLMES. The film never feels rushed, evolves naturally, and takes its time in revealing mysteries and character motivations. The film is beautiful to look at from the streets of 1800’s London to the lush countryside, and Carter Burwell’s elegant score makes MR. HOLMES  a real charmer to take in. 

Ian McKellen turns in one of his finest performances as Sherlock Holmes.  He displays a wide range of emotions from stubbornness to confidence to the great fear and sorrow when the realizations set in that the end is near. McKellen is dazzling and gripping and heartbreaking with just one look, and it is a commanding performance without being grandiose. Laura Linney, as Roger’s mother, gets the unfortunate job of being a bit of a villain by frowning over all the time her son and Holmes are spending together, but her performance is perfect…as is young Milo Parker, who matches McKellen’s performance in stride. The real treat for movie-buffs is when McKellen’s character goes to the movies to see a film about himself, and the cinematic version is played by Nicholas Rowe…who in our reality played a schoolboy Sherlock in YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (1985); a clever touch which is sure to have cinema geeks smiling. 

Joseph Campbell also wrote extensively about the steps that every hero must take to complete their journey, and MR. HOLMES manages to put not one but two characters through it. But it’s less of a mystery film and more of a contemplative piece about an old man looking for a final resolution before clocking out, and although there is a sense of melancholy over the film concerning all things which must pass from the world…there is a great deal of cinematic enjoyment to be found in this caper. 


1 comment:

  1. Am I looking forward to this one? Elementary my dear Alan!


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