Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Review: Mr. Holmes (2015)


Director: Bill Condon
Runtime: 104 minutes

I finally got around to watching Mr. Holmes on Netflix. The film, based on Mitch Cullin's 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, focuses on an elderly Sherlock Holmes struggling to come to terms with senility.   Holmes retired from the detective business decades prior to the events of the film, and has decided to write the true account of his last case, the one that drove him from London to a quiet life of beekeeping.  Unfortunately, his memory is fading, and he has trouble remembering details, though he is helped along by the housekeeper's precocious son. 

I've always found Sherlock Holmes fascinating.  Not the character, per se, or even the Doyle stories. I have a soft spot for metafiction and the crossover between pop culture and history (cf. my review of Dan Simmons's The Fifth Heart, where Sherlock Holmes teams up with Henry James), so this seemed right up my alley.  I was underwhelmed. 

Without divulging too much, the central mystery of the film (what were the details of Holmes's last case, and why did it cause him to quit for good) doesn't have a satisfactory resolution.  The resolution is unambiguous, but unconvincing, for while I can understand Holmes's distress, for a man who is routinely involved with murder and espionage, this isn't nearly enough to justify his response.  Meanwhile, Holmes's relationship with the housekeeper's son Roger is touching, but not something that we haven't seen a million times before, even if the acting, from both McKellan as Holmes and Milo Parker as Roger, is above average.

As a Sherlock Holmes story, it's uninteresting.  As a story about aging and mortality, it's sweet but unoriginal.  As a comment on the Sherlock Holmes mythos (of, as the poster says, "the man beyond the myth") it's a real letdown, as it doesn't really add anything except to point out that well-known misconceptions (e.g. the deerstalker) are misconceptions, or to ask "what if Sherlock Holmes were old?" 

Rating: 




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