3 Stars – Wholesome
Mr. Holmes is a simple but captivating look at an aging Sherlock Holmes, who at 93 struggles to remember names, places, and events that have shaped his life. Portrayed beautifully by Ian McKellen in the title role, this is a mystery only in the sense that “age” robs us all of a clear vision of the past. Holmes wants to write his own epilogue rather than leaving the task to the fictionalizing editors with whom he has worked for decades. The struggle is to remember what really happened.
Holmes has isolated himself for over three decades in a small farmhouse, watched over by a housekeeper named Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker). Mrs. Munro struggles with the demands of a man who is losing his faculties, but Roger is captivated with the stories, mysteries, and social fantasies that Mr. Holmes weaves into all of the life experiences he shares. Mr. Holmes, who had long ago grown weary of the fabricated stories about his life, finds great comfort in having someone like Roger around who is so affirming in his youthful exuberance, and yet so honest in his assessments of Holmes current circumstance. Holmes and Roger have a perfect grandfather-grandson liking for one another.
Many of the stories of Sherlock Holmes younger life had been written by others and embellished to sell books. Holmes admits to Roger that he himself had never worn the kind of hat that his editors were fond of portraying, nor had he ever smoked a pipe. He always walked around his town in a top hat and smoked a cigar, and gave out his neighbor-across-the-street’s address as his own. In this way he could slip in and out of his own house in relative obscurity while gawking at the tourists hanging around across the road starring into his neighbor’s window.
Thirty-Five years earlier something happened that had caused him to seek to live in isolation, but Holmes was now deeply struggling to remember what it was. We won’t give away what he discovers along the way, but there is a richness in the telling of the tale. A key ingredient – or ultimately remembered insight – is that in telling a woman the truth, she ended up losing her life. This in turn, caused her husband and others to live for years wondering what they could have done to heal the impact this had on their lives. The question is, should he have told the truth? There is the key to the mystery of all of their lives and the feelings attached that have touched their souls.
Mr. Holmes is an interesting study in living with regret, learning lessons late in life, and then passing on valuable insights to the next generation. Like most of us, the answers seem self-evident once they are known, but often they take decades to decode. Ian McKellen may only be 76 years old in real life, but his portrayal of a man two decades older is a remarkable and masterful image of a life still trying to understand the basics.
- When you become a public figure and others write about you, it is difficult to separate the fiction from the reality. How would you deal with this if you were Mr. Holmes?
- The relationship that Holmes has with young Roger is one of mutual support and growth. Do you have a person of another generation in your life that provides such support?