Monday, February 8, 2016
I was with my beloved spouse (she-who-must-be-obeyed) yesterday at Target and while she was shopping for home decor items (and projects for me...sigh) I spent my time prowling the dvd section of the store and found quite a small cache of Sherlock Holmes material. First there was a dvd of The Abominable Bride from the folks at Sherlock which I looked at here, and there was a copy of the recent theater offering Mr.Holmes starring Sir Ian McKellen. A friend had recommended this one to me and on the strength of that I picked it up. I'm glad I did.
I did not realize this was a Bill Condon movie. Condon and McKellen had worked together nearly twenty years ago on one of my all-time favorite almost monster movies, 1998's Gods and Monsters about the later years of famed Frankenstein director James Whale. That movie is a stylish and marginally fictionalized look at a very complicated man. This was McKellen before the worldwide fame of being both Gandalf and Magneto had descended upon him.
In Mr.Holmes he's twenty years older and plays a "real world" version of Sherlock Holmes still alive at 93 in 1947. He's been retired and beekeeping for many decades and now we meet the famed detective in his last days as his famed mind is withering and he tries desperately to make sense of his final case which he's forgotten in many respects and which sent him into his self-imposed exile. McKellen offers up a tender picture of a man fighting to keep himself together long enough to complete his self-imposed mission to find meaning and to help a young boy and his mother heal their rift.
We have a story here that operates in multiple time frames as we follow Holmes in the now at his Sussex home, and the recent past on an expedition to Japan (Hiroshima to be exact), but also many years before in London as he pursues what will be his last case. The details of all three stories dovetail into one another, nestled gently and the meaning of all three are dependent upon the others. It's a film that requires careful watching, but is crafted with such care that one needs never get lost. There are some striking and memorable images in a movie which quietly leaves its mark.
Like Gods and Monsters, this is a movie I will never forget. Or at least like Holmes here, I hope I never do.
Neat little Holmes insider note is that Nicholas Rowe who played Young Sherlock Holmes has a very canny cameo in the movie as a briefly seen film version of the great detective.