Mr. Holmes
dir Bill Condon
scr Jeffrey Hatcher
prd Iain Canning, Anne Carey, Emile Sherman
with Ian McKellen, Milo Parker, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Phil Davis, John Sessions, Nicholas Rowe, Sarah Crowden
release UK 19.Jun.15, US 17.Jul.15
15/UK BBC 1h44
Mr. Holmes
A slight trick of the mind: Parker and McKellen

linney sanada allam
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Mr. Holmes This slow-burning dramatic mystery may not have the fireworks Sherlock Holmes fans are hoping for, but it's a beautifully crafted film that takes the time to get under the skin of its characters. The plot is complex enough to demand attention, but that isn't difficult when the central performance is this magnetic.

At 93, Sherlock (McKellen) has been retired for 30 years, tending to his bees in rural 1947 Sussex. He lives with his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Linney) and her bright son Roger (Parker), who's fascinated by both the bees and Sherlock's past life as a detective. So Sherlock takes him under his wing. Worried about encroaching senility, he is trying to make sense of his final case involving Ann (Morahan) and her nervous husband (Kennedy). And he's also pondering some discoveries during his recent trip to post-war Japan at the invitation of his fan Umezaki (Sanada).

These three plot strands invade each other as Sherlock finds insight in one that helps him navigate another one, piecing together the clues to make sense of them all. Some of this isn't hugely convincing (he has forgotten the details of Ann's case but remembers everything else), and some of the smaller mysteries along the way are fairly simple. But this isn't the story's point. Based on Mitch Cullin's novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, this is an exploration of ageing and suppressed regret.

McKellen delivers a terrific performance as a man discovering that he might not be as sharp as he once was. Channeling the spirit of John Gielgud, McKellen creates a fascinating character who's happy to burst the mythology surrounding his long life, reminding people that he's not the fictional character of Watson's embellished stories while realising that he's also not the man he used to be. Flashbacks remind us that McKellen can also play 60 (he's actually 76), and it's his controlled approach to the character that brings him to vivid life.

The film is packed with prickly scenes that create a terrific dynamic between the performers. Linney and Parker bring sharp personalities to their roles, as do one-scene veterans like Allam, Davis, Sessions and de la Tour. So the film's intelligence and compassion make up for its slow, stately pacing, as well as some quirky plot elements like a glass armonica or a rare Japanese herb. Essentially, MeKellen's performance is so resonant that the fact that he's playing Sherlock Holmes is irrelevant.

cert pg themes, violence 21.May.15

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