Mr. Holmes, directed by Bill Condon, takes up the story of the aged Sherlock Holmes (played by Sir Ian McKellen) just back from Japan where he was searching for a special plant, who has come to his country home in Sussex to live out the end of his days while trying desperately to solve one final case.

While it’s partly the same Sherlock – a tall, gaunt man with a hooked nose; rude and highly observant – we’re also seeing a very different Sherlock. In Mr. Holmes, Sherlock is hardly the spry, quick-witted young man of fame and notoriety.  He is in the throes of what seems to be early stages of Alzheimer’s and he can hardly walk upstairs and needs a cane and a magnifying glass.

old homes

At first, it’s shocking to be stuck in a slow-paced world in the idyllic countryside of England, flooded with warm light and a beautifully pastoral soundtrack by composer Carter Burwell, following around the hobbling shadow of a once-great legend.  This is not the kind of Sherlock Holmes story our world is used to.

However, once the flashbacks start occurring, it becomes apparent that the slower pace is only in his lifestyle; the pace speeds up as his time runs out. Holmes’ final mystery is the forgotten tale of the Kelmots, and through the process of remembering, and writing this story down, his self-reflection begins.

The characters, and actors who bring them to life, are strong. From those in the 1947 present, the star studded cast helps brings Holmes’ past into our reality. Laura Linney plays the dowdy housekeeper Mrs. Munro, and Milo Parker plays her young son Roger. In the flashback, there’s Hiroyuki Sanada as Mr. Umezaki, an admirer of Holmes and who Holmes believes can help him restore his memory. There’s also Hattie Morahan, who plays the mystery woman Ann Kelmot.


And while the theme between what is real and what is fiction is so prevalent throughout, the perfection of Sir Ian McKellen creates a new reality of a Holmes most viewers have never considered. The idea of plotting a story of “what comes next” for a beloved story isn’t a new thing, but the passion and attention to detail brought to this story and script (screenwriter is Jeffrey Hatcher) is so refined that this feels like a reality.

The tremendous surge of re-interest in Sherlock Holmes is hard to miss – from CBS’ Elementary, with a female Watson (played by Lucy Liu), to the fabulously stunning and addictive Masterpiece Mystery’s Sherlock (with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman), to the Warner Brothers’ Hollywood franchise Sherlock Holmes (with Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr.), it’s clear that the world still can’t get enough of Mr. Holmes.

While Ian McKellen’s 93-year-old Holmes doesn’t grace the screen with a boxing match, he does get to say a few very fun and quintessentially Holmesian lines. After Mrs. Munro tells Sherlock that her son is remarkable, Sherlock responds with a knowing nod, saying that “Remarkable people often come from unremarkable parents.”

And while the aforementioned versions follow the youthful detective in a gritty, crime-thrilled big city, all of which follow a faster pace with a more able-bodied Sherlock, it’s in this version where Holmes finally sees his own faults through introspection that we see what he’s been missing his whole life.

Bill Condon and Ian McKellen (who worked together before in the Academy Award winning Gods and Monsters) to create a brilliant, albeit failing, version of this infamous character, while the cast (major nod to newcomer Milo) and crew (the hooked nose feels so real – well done Dave and Lou Elsey) create Holmes’ worlds from then and now.

The tone is not thrilling or scary; so don’t come to see a fantastical play on what a 90-year-old man’s life could be.  But do come to see a beautifully shot film where every detail is attended to and passionate and stunning actors fill up a world of British (and Hollywood) nostalgia.