Sherlock Holmes is a complex creation. Continuously in TV and film adaptations, Holmes is shown as living with the ‘consequences’ of the books written by his faithful companion John Watson, mortified by their ‘happily-ever-after’ endings and presumptions, and disconcerted by media portrayals (hello, deerstalker hat).
This new film – directed by Bill Condon – shows Holmes in an entirely new light, unrecognisable from the brilliant detective who has captivated audiences for well over a century. In Mr Holmes, Sherlock is edging towards the end of his life, his brilliant memory dimmed and his inability to fully remember a case he failed to successfully solve years earlier haunting him.
Gone from the smoky streets of London and nestled in a housekeeper’d cottage in the countryside, this is post-World War II Holmes, making Ian McKellen’s portrayal entirely new on all levels.
Slow-moving at times – and yet never dull – the film centres around Sherlock’s last case, which led to his resignation from the investigative world following his failure to crack it. Told piece by piece, this is a multi-strand story, split into three sections: the doomed case, 30 years earlier; Sherlock’s more-recent journey to Japan in a bid to restore his failing memory; and the present, set at Sherlock’s sprawling countryside home.
Present-day Sherlock is – poor memory aside – in failing health, and his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her young son, Roger (Milo Parker), are his only companions. In his bid to correct Watson’s miswriting of the last case (in which he made it seem Holmes had solved the case), Sherlock is attempting to raid his ailing mind for the details that led to the case’s tragic conclusion.
As he does so, he begins to bond with Roger; it’s touching to see the boy’s shiny-eyed admiration of the once-great detective, and like-wise, it’s moving to see Holmes’ notoriously emotion-less character bond with the small boy. McKellen is sublime in his performance, bringing humour, warmth and depth to the character like never before.
Presenting a side of the iconic detective we’ve never seen before – he falls out of bed, wears striped pyjamas and treats his hives of bees with the utmost of care – this creative adaptation is actually based on a book, A Slight Trick Of The Mind by Mitch Cullin. The film handles the subject matter – the lonely, dimming light of the always-pin-sharp Holmes – beautifully, and I would recommend this to anyone.