Mr. Holmes (2015)

(Video on Demand, December 2015)  At a time when we’ve been served with no less than three recent muscular re-invention of Sherlock Holmes (from Sherlock to Elementary to the two Sherlock Holmes Guy Richie movies), it’s a noteworthy change of pace to see Iam McKellen play an elderly Holmes wrestling with early dementia and past regrets in Mr. Holmes.  Directed by Bill Condon, this is a film about a very human Holmes (far less fanatical than his three recent counterparts) and it plays in minor keys: the caper to be resolved doesn’t depend on outlandish deductions, and the real mystery here is Holmes struggling to recall events from his own life.  McKellen is a terrific Holmes, bringing both gravitas and vulnerability to the role.  A thoroughly de-glammed Laura Linney is there to provide another point of view, further challenging our view of Holmes.  It’s a fairly slow film, and one that may not hold your attention easily if you’re distracted by other things, but it does build to a finely-controlled finale in which Holmes accepts his place in life and the necessity of being close to other people.  Given that at least two of the three other recent Sherlocks are struggling with the same thing, Mr Holmes does have something more to bring to the character and should be admired as such.  Just don’t expect fist-fights, gun battles and ticking-clock deductions: it’s not that kind of film, and it’s probably better for it.

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