McKellen is wondrous in the role of Sherlock Holmes in his dotage. At 75
years of age, he was most convincing, both as a 58-year-old still at the
top of his mental faculties, and as a 93-year-old, stooped, forgetful,
given to fits of nostalgia, and a certain inexplicable melancholy.
has retired to his country cottage, keeping his bees.
It’s 1947 now, and the world is quite different for him:
he and Watson parted ways long ago.
He lives with the housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and her
young son, Roger (Milo Parker). Mrs.
Munro is a stern, tight-lipped, rather joyless middle-aged woman,
who’s always talking about taking another housekeeping job somewhere
else. But Roger has become
fascinated with all things Sherlock, including the myriad collections in
his cluttered desk, and the mysterious woman’s glove in a secret
drawer. Mr. Holmes has
decided that Watson, though a prolific writer, did not get the facts of
many of the cases right, especially the last one, involving the Ann
Kelmot case, which ended so badly that it drive Mr. Holmes into
retirement. Not that he
couldn’t deduce the facts of the case; he could, and did.
But he missed something very important: people don’t just need
the facts recited to them; they could use a little compassion.
Especially in the midst of their own desperate self-deceptions.
Just because you know the brutal truth about someone doesn’t
mean you should tell them, because without our precious pretensions, we
are laid bare like a gutted corpse.
Bill Condon skillfully weaves the soothing score with some gentle
interaction between the irascible old man and the guileless young boy.
It’s not that Sherlock Holmes is unaccustomed to a little hero
worship; it’s just that this time, he sees something of himself in the
always-curious Roger. The
February-December relationship carries its own poignancy, and Mrs. Munro
is correct in feeling a little left out here.
She’s neither the wizened mentor nor the wide-eyed apprentice.
But she is always pragmatic, which both professor and pupil need
in constant doses.
a subplot here about Mr. Holmes traveling to Japan to visit the son of a
diplomat who claimed to know him in London, before The Blitz.
At first, Mr. Holmes was brutally blunt about never having met
the man, telling his son that it’s not unusual for people to wrap
their cowardice in false patriotism.
Later, as Mr. Holmes slowly realizes that human truth is more
complicated, he writes the son an exculpatory letter which is designed
to placate, even comfort. Perhaps
age has helped ameliorate some of the great detective’s patented
arrogance. But the viewer is
served a painful reminder of the horrors of Hiroshima (without the
context which produced it), which seems a bit theatrical, even for the
“Mr.Holmes” remains a winsome character study of a fictional
personality so vivid he’s acquired his own cultural reality.