Monday, July 27, 2015

Mr. Holmes (2015)



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)
Trivia Tidbit: I squealed like such a fangirl when Nicholas Rowe unexpectedly put in an appearance playing Sherlock Holmes in a noir film within the movie! I keep dreaming and praying and believing that he will again have his day playing the great detective since now he is the IDEAL age for it!

17 comments:

  1. I'm super glad you enjoyed this one, Carissa! I'm definitely curious about it, but in all likelihood, will rent it on DVD. Anything Sherlock gets my attention and I've heard good things about this. Wonderful review! :)

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    1. It really was an excellent film. Very different from anything done before, or at least from what I've seen of other Holmes films/television. It's not speedy, that's for sure, and I appreciated that. I hope you like it when you see it on dvd.

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  2. I had no qualms about an old Holmes... so long as he did not die within the narrative, but I don't think anyone would go that far with the 'great detective.' It would be inappropriate somehow. I felt sad watching it, thinking about getting old, but ... like I said in person, there is also a beauty to age, to reaching the twilight years of your life, and remembering that old does not equal dead, that you can still act as a grandparent, and inspire the youngsters with wisdom. Holmes is making Roger into a better boy, and in doing so, his greatest legacy when he is gone, within this narrative, will be that he helped a stern child transition into a good man.

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    1. Yep, I agree. His meeting Roger will be the best thing that will likely happen to that boy in his childhood, and his mother. They will, in many ways, be the legacy he's going to leave behind, more important even than the cases he's solved. Because this is about relationship and not crime. It was really beautiful to watch, and I'm excited for my parents to watch it when it hits blu-ray.

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    2. Me too. I think my parents will like it.

      Read a great review for it, that says more about it than I ever could:

      http://www.angelusnews.com/entertainment/films/mr-holmes-a-return-to-the-authentic-sherlock-8503/#.VbaoGPnbxSi

      It was nicely pro-life, now that I think about it... both for the very old and the very young.

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    3. That truly is a lovely review, particularly the bits about "the importance of older people acting as mentors to the young, providing them with direction for the future and an appreciation for the past." It is so very true, although sometimes it is hard for the two generations to bridge the gap as it were.Thanks for sharing it!

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    4. I think it's incredibly important for kids to have grandparent figures -- related or not. There is so much they can learn from interacting with much older people -- and those older people desperately need younger people in their life, to give them joy and something to live for. I grew up mostly around "old people" and as a result, I have no trouble talking to them, or attempting to understand their worldview, etc.

      Mentors make all the difference.

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  3. I read the book it's based on, and it made me so overwhelmingly sad that I've decided I just can't see the movie. Maybe some day, as I do love Sir Ian. But right now, it's not something I want to go through again. But I'm so glad to hear that it's well-made, and that you enjoyed it!

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    1. Oh dear, now I'm afraid of what the book is like. Does it end badly? The film ended in a good way, but I spent most of the movie concerned Holmes would die. I do hope that when the right day comes, you're able to watch the movie and enjoy it. It really is a very hopeful tale, about how old age doesn't necessarily mean lack of value or importance. There were a lot of really good messages in it.

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    2. It depressed me, and he died at the end. Also, um, does the kid die in the movie? My book review is here if you want to read more, but mostly it just says that it depressed me a lot.

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    3. Wow. I'm glad I didn't finish reading the book then. I found it so convoluted and tedious that I gave up a couple chapters in.

      The movie kills neither of them off, no. Holmes is quite alive and well at the end, and even able to recover many of his memories, in part out of his enjoyment of being a grandfather figure to young Roger.

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    4. Yikes, okay not reading this book. Like Charity said, neither Roger nor Holmes die in the film, a fact I deeply appreciate. I would have been an absolute mess if either one of them had died because I liked them both so very much.

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    5. WELL!!! That's different. I might just go see it after all, then. It sounds like a profound improvement over the book, which I heartily un-recommend.

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    6. ... are you telling me that Roger dies in the book?

      If so... good grief, that IS depressing. No wonder the screenwriter said, "Yaaah... let's change the entire thing."

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    7. Yes, of hornet stings from trying to save a bee hive from a hornet attack, basically, and it's kind of Holmes' fault, and then Holmes kind of dies of a broken heart. HORRIBLE.

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    8. Dang. I'm glad I didn't read the whole thing now.

      Stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled.

      In the film, Roger does get stung by hornets. He nearly dies, but his time in the hospital allow Holmes and his mother to reconcile and find common ground. They figure out the truth about the hornets, and save the bees. Roger recovers, and the movie ends on a happy note with all three of them living together and Holmes setting out a Japanese prayer ring, with stones for each of his departed friends, to honor and pray for them all.

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    9. This is one time when I am so completely and absurdly happy to be spoiled. Thank you so much, Charity and Carissa! I actually, truly want to see this now.

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