Mr. Holmes (2015)

mrholmes_2015_poster
Mr. Holmes (2015)
  • Time: 103 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Mystery
  • Director: Bill Condon
  • Cast: Ian Mckellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada

Storyline:

The story is actually set in 1947, following a long-retired Holmes living in a Sussex village with his housekeeper and rising detective son. But then he finds himself haunted by an unsolved 50-year old case. Holmes memory isn’t what it used to be, so he only remembers fragments of the case: a confrontation with an angry husband, a secret bond with his beautiful but unstable wife.

6 reviews

  • (Rating: ☆☆☆ out of 4)

    This film is recommended.

    In brief: More character study than mystery, but Mr. McKellan impresses as Mr. Holmes.

    GRADE: B
     
    Mr. Holmes is a fine character study about a man who is losing his mental acuity. Once a sterling detective and highly admired celebrity, now an aging recluse trying to connect names to faces and remember simple daily routines, he sits at home with a housekeeper and her son as his only company.

    Loss is the recurring theme in this film. Not only is Holmes searching for clues to his life, but he is also trying to come to terms with a case that he cannot put into words or solve as his memory starts to fade. It is this flashback that becomes a pivotal subplot and connecting thread to his sole purpose in life.

    Written by Jeffery Hatcher, Mr. Holmes sets up these parallel stories and attempts to relate the two narratives which it does most successfully. A previous case in which a wife may or may not be trying to murder her husband comes into play, as does the story of Mr. Holmes and a young boy fascinated by his notoriety. All of the film’s characters are well defined and make the film more intriguing as it progresses to its logical conclusion.

    But the film does take a minor misstep that introduces another previous case of Sherlock’s, one that is based in Hiroshima during WWII, which doesn’t work as well and makes the story more convoluted without much satisfaction, other than overtly reinforcing the film’s underlying theme. This detour from the other storylines interferes with more involving murder mystery. It shrouds the film and is less interesting by comparison.

    However, nothing can compare to the high calibre of acting that resonates in this  well crafted film. Ian McKellan is a revelation as the title character. His performance shows us a before-and-after view of this great sleuth battling the degradation of the aging process in the subtlest of ways. We can observe his younger Holmes with his full faculties, quick deductions, and untapped energy. We can compare that previous man to this elderly octogenarian now only left with bouts of dementia, glazed over stares, shaky hand movements, and slumped over posture. Mr. McKellan’s skill as an actor is on full display here. Relish it.

    Also providing strong support is Laura Linney as Mrs. Munro, his frustrated and doting servant and Milo Parker as Roger, her inquisitive and impressionable son. This young actor gives a fully natural and realistic portrayal. There is also a memorable performance by as the mysterious lady in question, Mrs. Kelmot played by Hattie Morahan.

    Bill Condon directs the film with style and captures the era quite well. The score by Carter Burwell enhances the film as does the period details in the costumes by Keith Madden and production and set design by Martin Childs and Charlotte Watts.

    Do not be tricked into thinking that Mr. Holmes is a whodunnit (as the trailers seem to indicate). Nor is it much of a mystery for that matter. But it is a telling and riveting dramatic tale of one man’s quest to find himself and, with Mr. McKellan in charge, the case is definitely solved.

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  • This always happens near the end of summer and, since Christmas has been moved way up, so has the end of summer. There’s going to be a couple more blockbuster movies yet to come but this one is the first Oscar hopeful of the fall. This one had better be in the competition.
    Mr. Holmes, at first glance, looks like it might be a plodding story about old people. That impression couldn’t be more wrong. There is an old guy but there’s also a kid, a mother, a wife and her husband, a Japanese man and his family, and a whole lot of bees. Yes, Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters are there but only in the background, leaving Holms alone. Jeffery Hatcher’s screenplay, based on Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, is laid out near perfectly with builds and excitement and then quiet to balance and not overload the plot. There are actually two stories which blend and intertwine until the very end. Bill Condon, the director, has taken this work and used it well. There is never a slow spot, just quieter ones. When he builds the tension it’s all quick cuts and fast action. The screenplay and the direction work together to create the perfect place for the actors to bring the characters to life.
    I can’t say anything about Ian McKellen who plays Holmes. I always believe his characters and this performance is no exception. He will always be the old Sherlock Holmes to me. He is the center of this movie, most of the time, and when he’s not he hands it over in just the right manner.
    There is a small circle of American actors who always turn in a performance that is dynamic and believable. Laura Linney is one of these actors. She plays Holmes’s housekeeper, Mrs. Munroe, and I didn’t even recognize her at first. Mrs. Munro’s son, Roger, is played by Milo Parker, a kid who does an incredible job for someone so young and inexperienced. The movie revolves around these three characters and at no time is it disappointing.
    Hiroyuki Sanada plays Tamiko Umezaki a man with a grudge against Holmes because his father, Masuo played by Zak Shukor, never returned from England before the war. Sanada has only a few scenes but he has one great scene. Also in that category is Frances de la Tour who plays Madame Schirmer with gusto. Then there’s Hattie Morahan who plays Ann Kelmot, an enigma but also very clear if you know where to look.
    I give this movie 5 bees out of 4, if I’m allowed, and I wish it were higher. I haven’t enjoyed a movie and also been moved by it like this in a long time. I wish the characters were real people so I might have a chance to meet them.

  • Who better than the legendary Sherlock Holmes to measure out not just the power but the limitations of man’s reason.
    At 93, Ian McKellen’s Holmes is fending off senility. The most brilliant intellect stays mortal. He has exiled himself to the Sussex countryside, stung — or bitten? — by his failure to have saved a woman from suicide. His logic was enough to understand her but his emotional detachment cost her life — and left him burying the incident too deep to remember. Now he’s trying to recover it by writing up his last case more truthfully than Dr Watson did.
    The film can be summarized in the two lead faces. McKellen’s is a battleground of deep crevices where memories and emotions have been interred. His nose extends and hooks from a life of probing. The face of brilliant Milo Parker’s young Roger is an intense, unmarked, open flare of feeling. As the boy learns deduction from the old master, Holmes learns emotions and engagement from the lad. The relationship teaches the old man as much as the boy.
    In the last shot Holmes plants stones in memory of the departed, then marshals their spirit. The famed epitome of Reason adopts a Japanese ritual and spirituality. The god’s eye view establishes his new arena of awareness.
    Holmes’s conversion to emotion was prompted by young Roger’s almost fatal dedication to Holmes and his bees. His feelings for the boy lead to an understanding of the boy’s lost relationship to his dead pilot father. That prompts Holmes to write his Japanese contact a consoling lie: that Holmes remembers the man’s father, was indeed responsible for his failing to return home, and that he made an exceptional contribution by his service to Britain.
    It also prompts Holmes to give his homemaker, Roger’s mother, the emotional support she needs and to will her and her son his estate. Having failed one woman Holmes will not fail this one. As he recovers the case he had suppressed, he’s freed to connect emotionally to others, both the close and the distant.
    The reason vs emotion split has a parallel in Holmes: the film plays him as a real person often at odds with the fictionalized version created by Watson. Here Holmes is a real man quite at odds with the Holmeses that have proliferated since Watson’s. He’s bemused by he contemporary film version he watches, whose Holmes has an utterly empty, vacuous and unlived-in face, compared to McKellen’s. His Holmes lives at a different address than Watson declared, spurns the deerstalker and finds the pipe now reduced to abhorrent prop.
    Both sets of antitheses define the human condition as in tension between opposing natures, ever in need of balance. Its emblem is the gift crystal that freezes both the productive and social bee and its enemy wasp.
    As modern man epitomizes science and reason, it’s in the charred ruins of Hiroshima that this Holmes finds the prickly ash he hopes will revive his memory better than the royal jelly did. Neither works, because the human condition can not be approached or addressed by reason or science alone. What these human powers fall short of is the spiritual that this Holmes addresses at the end. Perhaps his doctor has his number when he cites his “ashley prick” — not a bad emblem for the initially irritable and lifeless Holmes here, before an emotional attachment saves him.

  • “I’ve decided to write the story down; as it was, not as John made it. Get it right, before I die.”

    This is the Sherlock Holmes movie for the drama-phile. A talkie piece in every sense of the word, Mr. Holmes is a ponderous affair grounded by a performance of such hypnotism that you can’t help but feel enthralled by it. The great Ian McKellen stars as the title character, effectively absorbing his character’s quirks and eccentricities, but not forgetting the warmth and wisdom of a wise, old man.

    The aged Sherlock Holmes, in his nineties with fading memory, strikes up a friendship with a young boy intrigued by the tales of Holmes’ investigations, especially the latter’s final unsolved case of a mysterious woman. Together, they seek for clarity but for different reasons. The boy, ever so fascinated by fiction, is curious about what life entails, while Holmes, ever so fascinated by the mysteries of life, wants psychological closure for a case that has haunted him for decades.

    Directed by Bill Condon, best known for Gods and Monsters (1998) and Dreamgirls (2006), Mr. Holmes may be too slow for mainstream viewers even if it is designed to be appealing to that very same crowd. It is not really an arthouse movie, but neither is it inherently palatable to the casual moviegoer. But McKellen’s star presence helps to bridge the gap, whatever the gap is, bringing the audience closer to his character.

    The strength of McKellen’s performance lies in the intimacy he creates for us. He invites us to be comfortable with his character – Holmes is not some caricature, though that is the butt of his complains, but a seasoned old man in his final years. Gone are his days of spying around and solving mysteries, but through the memory of his last unsolved case, we are privy to a man’s agony in not having the answers to the biggest mystery of them all: life itself.

    For the post-2000s generation, Sherlock Holmes is popularly represented by both Robert Downey Jr. in the two movies directed by Guy Ritchie, and Benedict Cumberbatch in the ‘Sherlock’ television series. While McKellen’s impression is not going to change that landscape of familiarity, it may just give us another face, another thought to ponder. In this regard, Mr. Holmes is like a poignant afterthought, a well-deserved closure for the character, with a picturesque cinematography to boot.

    Verdict: A superb performance by the great Ian McKellen elevates this period piece drama about an aged Sherlock Holmes into something more palatable and engaging.

    GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)
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  • The Sherlock Holmes at the center of director Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes is 93, unsound of body, and slipping into the early stages of short-term memory loss. Aware of his mental deterioration, Holmes (Ian McKellen) has been harvesting royal jelly from his apiary and recently obtained prickly ash from Japan, both herbal remedies he hopes will sharpen his memroy. Holmes seeks completion in his ever more limited time on earth, and he cannot achieve it without putting to paper the facts surrounding his final case, one that was responsible for his withdrawal from his profession and into a self-imposed exile.

    Adapted from Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, Jeffrey Hatcher’s screenplay glides back and forth between three timelines. The first is 1947 as Holmes attempts to bolster his failing memory, struggling to string sentences together to write about that most vexing case involving a certain Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan), whose husband Thomas (Patrick Kennedy) came to him all those years ago, seeking the great detective’s help to deduce the cause of his wife’s odd behaviour. A suspicious music teacher (Frances de la Tour) and a glass armonica, an instrument believed to be of the dark arts, may have put a spell on Ann, who has been emotionally eroded by the deaths of her two children during pregnancy.

    Holmes, as is his nature, quickly and clearly assesses the facts but blunders by misunderstanding their meaning. He will make a similar, though less fatal, mistake three decades later during a visit to Japan. Hosted by Mr. Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanoda), whose comportment hints at an uncommon interest in Holmes, they explore the ruins of Hiroshima to acquire the prickly ash.

    Life and death and their thin line of separation is one of the themes explored in the film, as is the limitation of truth and the comforting power of fiction. Of course, there is the study of Holmes himself as he confronts the advancing retreat of his logic and reasoning, the very things that make him Sherlock Holmes. Yet he displays a surprising capacity for new understandings and connections, the latter most evident in the bond forged with young Roger (newcomer Milo Parker), the son of his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney). It is Roger who helps him tend to his bees and who inspires him to continue with his writing, his inquisitive presence sparking flashes of memory in Holmes.

    Mr. Holmes does not always hold the interest, often sedating rather than enthralling, though it has its moments of satisfaction. The scenes focusing on the Kelton case are arguably the strongest as they have more than a passing commonality with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and especially because of the poignantly haunted portrayal by Morahan.

    McKellen is typically superb as the fading giant, though do yourself a favour and watch Gods and Monsters, his previous teaming with Condon. That film tackled the themes of aging and mortality and the difficult task of parsing fact from illusion without feeling as enfeebled as the whimpering Mr. Holmes.

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  • “Take this diary. Each day you don’t recall a name or place, make a mark on the page for that day’s date. What if I forget to make the mark?”

    Once again a movie about the world famous British detective. Apparently they’ve made already nearly 200 films about this fictitious figure (only Dracula reaches this number). The latest Sherlock films are those with Robert Downey Jr. starring in it. But don’t expect mysterious developments, gunfights or wild chases. They could have called it “Mr. McKellen”, because this brilliant actor plays the very old Holmes with enormous panache and class. The film doesn’t show Sherlock Holmes as a mythical figure but seeks to create a realistic portrait of the man. A surly ex-detective struck by amnesia who spends his last days on a farm in the countryside. Frustrated because he wasn’t able to solve the last case he was working on.

    “Mr. Holmes “is more a biographical film than an exciting thriller, starring a legendary figure who suffers from old age ailments. A man who decides to stop being a detective at the time his phenomenal memory lets him down and who tries to find a remedy against further decay. A realistic portrait of the figure Sherlock Holmes who dissociates himself from the fictional character as described in the literature. He even says that the typical attributes such as the “deerstalker” and his pipe are grotesque fabrications devised by Dr Watson.

    The main part is about his passion for bees and the relationship he has with Roger (Milo Parker), the curious son of the housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney). Slowly we see the surly, sober Sherlock changing. A man who never showed any true emotions in his life and approached everything in a logical and reasoned way. And slowly you see him turning into a sensitive and humane person. Eventually there are three different story lines that are interwoven with each other in an ingenious way. On the one hand we have the last unsolved case he’s trying to immortalize with the help of Roger. On the other hand, there is a Japanese chapter about the quest for a medicinal herb. And all this is embraced by the story in the present time with the mythical Sherlock slowly fading away.

    The film is a collage of excerpts from these three story lines. Needless to say McKellen, better known as Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings”, delivers a masterful performance. It’s wonderful to see how he sets the 93-year-old Sherlock opposite to the thirty years younger detective. A legend whose memories slowly fade compared to a spry, intelligent man who observes and interprets everything in detail. Sublime and majestic. Also, one should not hesitate to heap praise on young Milo Parker. He seems very natural and the interplay with McKellen is at times really enjoyable. Sadly enough Laura Linney had little scope to shine. However, the rare moments you can admire her, were sufficient enough to show she’s a brilliant actress.

    Although the film is situated in an era which is characterized by a quieter life without hectic situations, the overall pace can seem rather enervating. The pace is similar to the rhythm of life of the elderly Sherlock: lethargic, timid and calculated. In addition, the sets of Victorian England are pleasing to the eye. As well as the beautiful scenery of the English coast. But the biggest achievement was that in the end I was firmly convinced that Sherlock wasn’t a fictional character sprong from someone’s imagination. Let me quote Sherlock as a conclusion : “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,however improbable, must be the truth?”.

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