“The performances were great, the idea was great, but the movie itself failed to impress.”
When I first heard about the film Mr. Holmes, all I could think about was the brilliant “Old Holmes” sketch done by David Mitchell and Robert Webb. In the sketch, which is rather sad for a comedy duo, we see John Watson visiting his friend Sherlock Holmes whose mind is so deteriorated that he barely even remembers who he is. Mr. Holmes has a similar plot, or at least it claimed to. Mr. Holmes follows 93 year-old Sherlock Homes (Ian McKellen) as he enjoys retired life on the coast tending to his bees; but life isn’t all fun and games for Holmes because he is plagued with the curse of not remembering why exactly he has essentially exiled himself from London. He knows that it has to do with his last case, but he can’t for the life of him remember how that case ended. There is also a relationship building between Sherlock and his housekeeper’s (Laura Linney) son, who is played by Milo Parker.
I personally think that dementia is the worst thing that could happen to a person, and I am definitely not against movies being made about the tragic disorder. I’m also not against more Sherlock Homes films, as he is such an interesting character to watch. Of course on paper, having Sherlock Homes deal with something like dementia is a home run (so to speak). The man who relies on his mind finding that his mind is failing him, it’s brilliant. And we get to see a glimpse of that in the Mitchell and Webb sketch that I mentioned before, but that premise can only get better when adapted into a larger production, right? Well, I didn’t necessarily think so. In fact I found Mr. Holmes to be pretty dull throughout. Like I said, the idea was interesting but unfortunately it didn’t feel like it was the main part of the story. See, Sherlock Holmes can’t remember his case, so the movie is about him trying to remember. We also get a few sad scenes of him forgetting other things as well, but the main goal is the case. But then the movie shifts into a film about the relationship between Holmes and the young boy, and it feels like the whole dementia thing was left by the wayside. What I really enjoyed were the flashbacks we got of Homes actually solving the case. These were structured like any other Sherlock Homes story, and therefore were enjoyable. I also like the idea of Sherlock dealing with his deteriorating mind, but the problem is that the film didn’t seem to want to commit to either story which left us with this weird purgatory-esque feeling. The ending of the film picks up, because it gains more focus on a single storyline, but then when the film comes to a close I couldn’t help but feel unfulfilled. The movie was presented as a story about Sherlock Homes trying to solve his final case, but it turned into this completely different story about Sherlock finally learning about other people (and more specifically, how they react to tragedy). This would have been fine had the film presented itself as such from the get go. The way the movie is currently presented feels very disjointed in its story-telling, and then when the credits come on instead of being happy I just had more questions than before.
Apart from all of that, I thought Mr. Holmes was a beautiful film. The acting was absolutely amazing, with McKellen doing a great job as the aging detective. That really comes as no surprise seeing as McKellen is a phenomenal actor, but he deserves the praise for this role. I also enjoyed the performance of Laura Linney as Mrs. Munro (Sherlock’s housekeeper). Although her performance was a tad one-note at times, I felt that she did a pretty good job at portraying the inner-conflict that her character was feeling. I would say that the star of the show was absolutely Milo Parker, because it was mainly through his eyes that we saw the story. Milo is just a boy, but his performance in Mr. Holmes was nothing shirt of brilliant. Much like his mother, the character was very conflicted on the inside. It was great to see this character idolize Sherlock Holmes, while at the same time come to realize the gravity of his situation. Milo was able to play both the naive child, and the mature character simultaneously and it was pretty amazing to watch. Mr. Holmes was also rather stunning to look at. The location where the story takes place is this picturesque home by the sea with these sprawling fields behind it. I couldn’t help but be taken-aback by this wonderful scenery every time that I saw it.
Overall Mr. Holmes is a film with an interesting premise, but the execution didn’t do much for me. It felt like the film was juggling a couple of different story lines which just made the whole thing feel like a bit of a mess. The performances were great, the idea was great, but the movie itself failed to impress.
I give Mr. Holmes a C