We are undoubtedly in the middle of a Sherlock Holmes revival with a Sherlock Holmes for just about every day of the week. There are more than a few obvious deductions to be made about our culture’s renewed fascination with the supreme intellect of Sherlock Holmes. He’s an intellectual superhero for a modern world that (frankly) could use some of his incredible logic.
The latest adaptation, “Mr. Holmes,” is based not on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but a 2005 novel: “A Slight Trick of the Mind” by Mitch Cullin. The film, directed by Bill Condon, has taken some heat from the Conan Doyle estate because of this, but as a fan of the Sherlock stories in all forms, with no monetary stake in the copyright issues, I have no qualms with this delightful exploration of a kind of Sherlock we’ve not yet seen.
“Mr. Holmes” introduces us to a retired, elderly Sherlock (Ian McKellen), who’s desperately trying to preserve his mind in order to retrieve the details of his final case( a case which drove him to retire due to a conclusion he can no longer recall.
The shame of this lost memory drove him to the country where he now lives “alone” apart from his housekeeper (RIP Mrs. Hudson) Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker).
Sherlock’s just returned from Japan, where he’s acquired a plant he hopes will heal his mind. Although it’s clear that Roger—a curious and clever child who’s familiar with the legend of Mr. Holmes—is better for Sherlock than any potion. The two are soon partners in crime tending bees and solving the long, lost mystery.
Many recent adaptations explore the humanity of this sleuth who is so strongly, governed by logic. The added element of old age gives this Sherlock a poignancy that is incredibly moving. To see a man, whose identity is so tightly linked with his intellect, question his own mind is heartbreaking and revelatory.
Ian McKellen is at his best (of course), and brilliant as the frail figure of the present and as the detective in his prim,e who we see in fragmented flashbacks to the fateful (forgotten) case.
Milo Parker as Roger (pint-sized detective/beekeeper in training) is astonishing, and his scenes with both Ian McKellen and Laura Linney are all incredible. Seriously, this kid can act.
In a summer full of explosions, prat falls, and dinosaurs, there’s something incredibly refreshing about a simple detective story starring a superhero sleuth.
p.s. I feel obligated to apologize to “Vacation,” which if I were following stricter guidelines for movie selection, should have been reviewed this week. To make up for it, here’s a clip of Chris Hemsworth: