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Review: Mr. Holmes

Over the years countless adaptations have been made of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels. The most recent featuring Robert Downey Jr. as the quick witting sleuth. Each adaptation has shown Holmes as an eccentric man, able to find notice things that others cannot, and pulling clues out of nowhere. With Mr. Holmes, director Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters) shows us a new Sherlock Holmes. Played by Sir Ian McKellan, Holmes is now in his later years, and struggling with his memory.

Condon has set up a world in which the famous Sherlock Holmes books have been penned by Watson himself, who was usually the narrator of Doyle’s novels. Yet, Watson has painted a fanatical Sherlock loaded with big pipe and floppy hat. McKellan’s Holmes must live his daily life dealing with people’s utter disappointment that he is not the man they know and love from the famous stories. Now in the care of Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), Holmes looks back on his life while attempting to finally write his side of the story. With the support of Munro’s young son Roger (Milo Parker), Holmes attempts to recall an unsolved mystery involving a frustrated housewife (Hattie Morahan).

The shining star in Mr. Holmes is clearly McKellen. The actor has stepped back into supporting roles in recent years, and now returns to the forefront to remind us just how great of an actor he truly is. McKellen strips away the eccentric caricature we have come to know as Sherlock Holmes, and shows us a troubled, broken man fighting dementia. The story itself is entertaining, but is not very dense. It really serves to spotlight McKellen, rather than work as a compelling mystery. Linney is also excellent, as usual. Condon has worked with both stars before, McKellen in Gods and Monsters, Linney in Kinsey and The Big C, so he knows how to get great performances from these actors.

Anyone going into Mr. Holmes expecting a dense mystery film may be disappointed. This is ultimately a film for those looking to see great performances, and it delivers. While the film’s Holmes may be forgetting, the film is a reminder that we should be forgetting Ian McKellen any time soon. He’s more than Gandalf the Great, and he’s definitely still kicking.

[star v=35]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.