Forget everything you think you know about Sherlock Holmes. Forget Baker Street, forget the deerstalker hat, forget the pipe and forget the action packed sleuth brought to a new generation by Guy Ritchie. Director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) gives you a Sherlock Holmes that is fragile, short-tempered and losing his intellectual prowess. Based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, aging and looking back are very much the prominent themes in Mr. Holmes.
Ian McKellen plays Sherlock brilliantly. He embodies everything you imagine a cantankerous old man to be. He has outlived everyone from his life, including Dr. Watson and there is a sense of loneliness surrounding him. Its 1947 and our famous sleuth has retired to a remote farmhouse in Sussex. He is joined by his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her inquisitive son Roger, played by the excellent newcomer Milo Parker, who reminds me of Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas).
Holmes casts his mind back to a thirty year old case which led to his retirement. While he struggles to remember the details of the case, the story unfolds on dual timelines. We get to see his character at two different ages, both of which are very different. The first in 1947 where he is presented as the past his prime man behind the fictional Sherlock Holmes which Dr Watson wrote about. The second is 1919, where the super sleuth was working on the case The Lady in Grey. Younger, sharper and with services very much in demand, this version of Sherlock Holmes is vastly different to the almost forgotten man we see in 1947.
Although a mystery and a thriller, the film is very much a slow burn. Holmes is not only struggling with his diminished intellect but also figuring out how to handle a burgeoning relationship with his housekeeper and her son. As the story develops, so too does the friendship between him and Roger. Roger is like a mini Watson, sharp of wit, intrigued by Holmes and completely caught up in the mystery at hand. His earnestness and sense of adventure are portrayed superbly by Milo Parker. In the absence of a father figure he focuses on engaging Holmes. At first his attempts are rebutted, but over time it is he who becomes the catalyst for Holmes and Mrs Munro settling into a new-found friendship.
The story is cleverly woven with different time threads and the characters we meet through them bare a closer semblance to what we, as an audience think we know about Sherlock Holmes. One scene which is particularly amusing is where we see Holmes visiting a picture house to see a movie about him, based on Dr. Watson’s character, pipe and deerstalker hat included.
It’s a gentle film unlike any Sherlock Holmes told or seen before. The performances from all three main actors are excellent. The film I suspect will divide audiences. If you are hoping for a classic tale of Sherlock Holmes solving the mystery then this is not for you. If you want to learn more about the man behind the character and witness Ian McKellen at his very best then book your seats now. Mr. Holmes is in cinemas June 19th.
I’m giving it 4 out of 5 for strong performances from all three main characters. Check out the trailer below. You can also follow me on Facebook, (feel free to ‘LIKE’ the page) Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date.