Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
Bottom Line: Delightful story and well acted. A good combination of intrigue and lightness. Plus, it’s Sherlock Holmes!
It is sometimes strange how two unrelated yet so similar works of art fall into your lap within a short period of time. Neil Gaiman’s “Trigger Warning” book, which I recently finished reading featured a Sherlock Holmes short story called “The Case of Death and Honey” which took an older Sherlock Holmes and sent him to China after the death of his brother Mycroft looking for bees that may provide the secret to everlasting life. Not two weeks later, I see “Mr. Holmes”, a story about a retired Sherlock Holmes who travels to China to procure a royal jelly only produced by bees that feed on a specific type of flower which gives the imbiber a more clearly focused mind. The two are different enough in content but too eerily similar in a number of details for there not to be an influence. The influence would be on Gaiman in this case as his story was first published in 2011 as best as I can tell and the book “A Slight Trick of the Mind” (on which “Mr. Holmes” is based) was published in 2005. I don’t recall Gaiman citing “A Slight Trick of the Mind” as an influence, but it wouldn’t have meant anything to me when I read Gaiman’s story.
“Mr. Holmes” is about how much it sucks to get old. Sherlock Holmes languishes in retirement with his bees in a cottage in the countryside where he is taken care of by a housekeeper and her son. In the early stages of a mind wasting disease, he spends much of his time trying to recollect his final case which he believes caused him to go into retirement. The story is really a mystery within a mystery as Holmes both tries to piece together the fragments of his brain while also trying to piece together the facts of his final case at the same time. What a drag it is to get old. He finds in the housekeeper’s young son a kindred spirit and someone to whom he can pass on a bit of his legacy. Through the kid, Holmes recovers some of his own humanity.
I remember coming out of the theater and saying to my brother, “That was delightful.” And that word really sums up “Mr. Holmes” nicely. Sherlock Holmes is played by Ian McKellen who needs to make a billion more movies before he dies. Either that or get into infinite hijinks with Patrick Stewart. It is because of McKellen that I say the movie was delightful. Very few actors have his range an depth. He has support by Laura Linney who plays the housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, and Milo Parker who plays her son, Roger. Milo Parker, despite having only a handful of credits to his name, none of which are even familiar to me, has one of those faces that makes you absolutely sure that you’ve seen him in something before. It’s disconcerting.There have been many a final story written about the great Sherlock Holmes. I think none are as fitting as “Mr. Holmes”. Sherlock Holmes was brilliant and above all others in intellect, but in the end he was human subject to all the frailties of any other human and longed for human contact just like any other human. It’s a little sad and a little inspiring and well worth your time.