Ian McKellan plays craggy, cranky Sherlock Holmes, as the 93 year-old British detective attempts not only to ‘solve’ his last case but also to separate fact from fiction about his life. Retired to Dover on the southeast coast of England, Holmes lives in a cottage with a housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her curious, precocious son, Roger (Milo Parker), who helps him tend his beloved beehives. Resd on…
Ruminative Holmes realizes that his memory is failing, along with his powers of deduction. To remedy that, he’s experimenting with royal jelly and prickly ash, a rare Japanese herb with rejuvenating qualities.
What he’s struggling to recall are the details of a case involving his relationship with a melancholy, married woman (Hattie Morahan) that’s revealed in flashbacks to postwar London and bombed-out Hiroshima.
Burdened by his celebrity, Holmes is also irked by the way his colleague, Dr. John Watson, exaggerated, even fabricated details in the stories that made him famous, maintaining he actually prefers a cigar to a pipe and never wore a deerstalker cap.
Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from Mitch Cullin’s “A Slight Trick of the Mind” (2005), this character study is deftly directed by Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls,” ”Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”) with Ian McKellan (“Lord of the Rings,” “X-Men”) delivering a magnificently complex performance as Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictitious sleuth, whose exploits are still popular on the BBC’s “Sherlock” and CBS’s “Elementary.”
Kudos to cinematographer Tobias Schliessler, production designer Martin Childs, costumer Keith Madden and composer Carter Burdwell – for creating such a convincing period piece.
If you’re as dazzled by Ian McKellan’s acting as I am, see “Gods and Monsters” (1998) in which he plays “Frankenstein” director James Whale; it’s another meditation on life and aging – for which then-debuting director Bill Condon won an Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
And if Meryl Streep ever vacates her position as First Lady of American film, Laura Linney should be next in line for that exalted position.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Mr. Holmes” is an enigmatic, elegant 8, unraveling the exquisite mystery of memory.