Bill Condon’s Mr Holmes is more of a drama than a mystery. After a slow start, the film does engage to a certain extent.
Retired to the countryside, an ageing and ailing Sherlock Holmes looks back on his life. Holmes is haunted by an unsolved 30-year old case, and struggles to recall the details which made him retire all those years ago…
Mr Holmes features the infamous detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle, although in a different depiction than the audience will be used. Gone is the sharp detective about town, replaced by a frail older gentlemen. Rather than the acutely intelligent Sherlock Holmes of the stories, this detective has a failing memory.
The film takes place in the 1940s, but there are several lengthy flashbacks throughout. The two main stories that the film features provide the mystery element of proceedings. Mr Holmes eschews the detective story that some may expect, instead offering a drama about an ageing man looking back at his life.
The two stories that Holmes struggles to recall are told in multiple flashback sequences. Depicted in this fashion, there is enough mystery to keep viewers engaged, although the film never enthrals. As the film progresses, however, these tales do not entwine. This makes the narrative less neat, but perhaps this is the point. Mr Holmes is more about feelings and ageing than mystery.
Mr Holmes is the story of an elderly man, and functions as a fable on the mortality of man, the fallacy of memory and the significance of emotion. The unsolved case is not a failure as such; it works as a device to give the protagonist an understanding of frailty and the importance of other forms of intelligence beyond logic.
The period setting is aided by a real attention to detail. Ian McKellan delivers a strong performance as Holmes. Laura Linney and Milo Parker provide good support as Mrs Munro and Roger.
Mr Holmes may disappoint those hoping for a mystery in the style of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Nevertheless, it is a competent drama.
Mr Holmes is available to download from 12th October, and is out on DVD and Blu-Ray from 26th October 2015.