It is hard to believe that the fictional character Sherlock Homes first appeared in print in 1887. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created what would become one of the most well-known, iconic characters that is still intriguing to people today. Not only is he the basis for two current televisions shows in Elementary and Sherlock, but many films since he was originally introduced. One of the most unique tellings of this famous detective is Mr. Holmes. Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, it tells the story of Holmes seeking to solve his final case.
At age 93, Sherlock Holmes (Sir Ian McKellen) is retired and living in a small town with his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and her young son, Roger (Milo Parker). Holmes’ memory has been slowly failing him for years, and in an attempt to prolong the loss, and even try to restore it, he travels to Japan seeking a rare plant called Prickly Ash, known for its restorative powers. Tired of the inaccurate eccentricities created by Mr. Watson, along with all of the case embellishments, Holmes hopes to retrieve the memory of his last case so that he can write the real story.
Roger is fascinated by Holmes and especially his ability to describe where a person has been just by looking at them. Holmes gradually bonds with Roger and teaches him how to help tend to his many bee hives in addition to sharing pages of his story as he finishes writing them. Roger’s curiosity about the case and constant questions help the case to unfold.
McKellen plays the most down-to-earth version of Holmes I have seen on screen with a sensitive vulnerability as the real man behind all of the fiction created by Dr. Watson. Watching him struggle desperately to remember his past and eventually realize the lessons his last case has to offer is heart-wrenching at times. Linney offers her most subdued performance while Parker lights up the screen.
The chemistry between Parker and McKellen is the one of the keys behind the film and it is their developing relationship that is the most interesting. The relationship between Linney and Parker successfully illustrates the real struggle inherent between mother and son creating a depth of all of the characters as their battles blend into what is happening with Holmes.
The cinematography is also worth mentioning. From the farmhouse, to Japan and historic London, each offers their own breathtaking views and uniquely reflect different worlds inhabited by Holmes. It enhances the tone and overall feel as the narrative moves forward.
The Blu-ray has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It comes with a Digital HD code and the only special features are two brief featurettes, “Icon” and “Story” which offer interviews and some behind-the-scene information. Both combined are less than five minutes are really just extended trailers.
Mr. Holmes is not a thrilling mystery or intensely suspenseful as you would expect from a film about Sherlock Homes. Instead, it is a lovely tale about growing older and the importance of relationships.