When I first realized Ian McKellen was going to play an old Sherlock Holmes, I balked. Not because of Sir Ian, but because the very idea of an "old" Sherlock Holmes just didn't sit right with me somehow. It's a reminder of mortality . . . the notion that the world's greatest detective could grow old. And worse yet, grow senile.
Such is the case with Holmes. It is now well into the early 1940s and Holmes is aged, well into his 90s, if I were to make an estimated guess. He's become something of a recluse, hiding himself away in the country with his bee gums for the past 30 years. Why? All because of his last case, the case that went wrong. Now that he's setting out to correct the misconception John Watson created about this particular case, he can barely remember the details. They come to him in irksome snatches where only a few years before he could have told anyone every single detail of any one of his cases. Not so now.
If not for Roger, the young son of his housekeeper, Holmes might have actually given up trying to remember. But the lad wants to read the story Holmes is writing, is eager, even desperate, to connect to the world-weary detective. And Holmes finds an affinity in the boy's wit and intellect, for Roger loves learning in ways that the child's mother cannot even begin to comprehend. So the two, old man and young boy, journey together down memory lane, as Holmes fights every step of the way to maintain the vast intellect that earned him so much respect during his career.
While "love" is too strong a word for my feelings about Mr. Holmes, possibly "satisfaction" would be a good fit. Because I am highly satisfied with the BBC's vision of what an older Sherlock Holmes would be like, both in countenance and behavior. We might assume and hope that he would have never suffered senility, but who are we to say that wouldn't have happened to him? It's a logical possibility, and so I accepted that possibility as fact. When you're dealing with unknowns, anything can happen.
This movie is not a film of action. It is a film of reflection. We have Holmes in the 1940s recalling himself in the Edwardian era. It is calm and contented, slow in pace, methodical, yet not so slow that it feels like you're dragging. It just merely takes its time to tell the story.
One object lesson I took away from Mr. Holmes, and I hope you will too, is the simple truth that life doesn't simply end when you get old. We like to stuff our elderly away in homes and forget about them. But as I sat in the theater with my sister and our friend, we all three realized how important it is to keep on living. The British have quite a few things going for them, but one thing is that they will make films about the elderly, and do so with respect and without prejudice. Holmes is decrepit and going senile. It's hard to watch. But, like the little boy Roger, we still respect him for all that he has gone through and done in his life. Old doesn't mean useless.
True, there are a few things I didn't like about the film. Such as Holmes and Watson having had a falling out and not being close at the end of Watson's life. That didn't set all that well. I don't like the notion that Holmes and Watson might have grown apart as they aged, but again, this is merely an extention, if you will, of the original stories. It delves into the gray area of unknowns about Holmes' life and makes up a few things that might or might not have happened had the stories continued to Holmes' declining years.
In all honesty, Mr. Holmes is a delightful and nostalgic rendering of the great detective. And I will say, without giving any details, that the film ends well. I feared it might not since Holmes was so terribly old, but it ends in a very good place and I am profoundly appreciative of it. This is one I shall definitely go out of my way to purchase when it is released on blu-ray. So if you're lucky enough to have a theater near you playing Mr. Holmes (like I did), then go and enjoy!
|Nicholas Rowe as Holmes in Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)|