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'Mr. Holmes' is a Lovely Film If You Like Being Sad All the Time

I’m not going to lie, I just about loved this film. It’s maudlin, slow-paced, clever as hell, and covered in bees. It is not, however, a ‘feel-good movie for all ages’. Long as you’re cool with that, you’re in for a treat. Let’s do this.

So Mr. Holmes concerns the world’s most famous detective in his sunset years, raising bees and writing a memoir without Dr. Watson’s ‘embellishments’. His greatest obstacle? Holmes’ mind is finally succumbing to the ravages of old age. It’s quietly terrifying to watch the world’s smartest man literally stumble his way through a conversation with someone whose name he can no longer recall.


Jeffrey Hatcher adapted Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind into the screenplay du jour. Directed by Bill Condon, the film is airy, comfortably paced, and deftly maneuvers between Holmes’ eroding present and his final exploits as the Great Detective.

In his twilight, Sherlock’s needs are met by a blue collar housekeeper and her precociously bright son. It’s not Laura Linney’s greatest performance of all time, but it’s certainly heartfelt and sincere. As young Roger, Milo Parker delivers the youthful spark Holmes (and the film) needs to keep going. For their part, the duo balance out the story with some much-needed heart and vitality.

Re: the bees! Holmes harvests Royal Jelly from his hives for its purported restorative qualities. He’s insistent on finishing the memoir of his final mystery; the details of which keep slipping through his fingers. Ever the sleuth, Holmes will find his answers. He just may not be happy when he does.


If there were any doubts, Sir Ian McKellen’s Holmes is a creaking, perfectly tuned masterpiece. He is Holmes.

[Kudos to the gag of casting Nicholas Rowe as ‘Matinee Holmes’, the actor playing the Great Detective in, well, the in-film matinee. Rowe was superb in Young Sherlock Holmes, with albeit a lean career in the meantime.]


The film is about loss, and loneliness, and accommodating said loss. It is about regret, and kindness. It makes no claims to being a happy film, but it is grand all the same.

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