Sherlock Holmes, the eccentric ace detective known for his deductive reasoning, has remained popular for more than a century, and the character has recently become the objection of affection for many a female, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s phenomenal portrayal in the BBC miniseries, Sherlock. In the film, Mr Holmes, the iconic sleuth (Ian McKellen) is portrayed in a more intimate way, taking a moving look at his twilight years.
It’s 1947 and at 93, a frail-looking Holmes’ brilliant mental faculties are failing him, as he slowly succumbs to dementia. He’s been a recluse at his seaside farming home for decades, but can’t remember why. All he can recall is that he fled London after failing to solve his last case. Thus, the now grumpy yet milder nonagenarian begins his swansong and embarks on a journey to find the answers before it’s too late.
His only company is his Irish housekeeper, Mrs Munro (Laura Linney), who is suspicious of this enigmatic figure, and her young son Roger (Miles Parker). The child becomes Holmes’ new Watson, the elderly man treating the boy like grandson. A second mystery unfolds in the sub-plot, in which the two try to figure out what’s killing off Holmes’ beloved bees, which have become the centre of his world.
The film begins as Holmes returns home after a trip to Japan, in search of a mythical and rare plant that might restore his mind. His frustration grows as he recalls only snippets of his last case, in which a husband employs Holmes to investigate his wife’s mysterious behaviour following her two miscarriages. The mystery itself is not nearly as intriguing as Holmes’ discovery that valuing logic over emotion and human connections has isolated him, something which eventually destroyed his most important relationship – with his best friend and sidekick, Watson.
The story is told with tenderness and sensitivity. McKellen is endearing and graceful as this softer, less imposing Holmes. Every line on his face, the liver spots across his skin and his fading blue eyes tell a tale of their own.
If you’re expecting something in the vein of Sherlock, you might find the pace of this film slow. Holmes is a mystery drama rather than a crime thriller and is sweet and charming. Condon examines Holmes’ psyche rather than focusing on his mental prowess. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable film about unlocking that eternal mystery that is love and human connection.
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney ,
Rating: 4 out of 5
Holmes opens in South African cinemas on 28 August 2015.