A sobering but not bittersweet tale of soul-searching well past his prime, Mr. Holmes is a refreshing take on the familiarly slick and quick-witted super sleuth. Infirm and slipping into senility, Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) lives a mostly solitary existence in the twilight of his years with the aid of housekeeper Ms. Munro (Laura Linney), her excitable son Roger (Milo Parker) and a modest apiary. When confronted with the final case that drove him into retirement decades prior, Holmes is forced to grapple with morality and mortality in equal measure as recollection leads to self-reflection.
It’s easy to discern how Mr. Holmes‘ appeal is almost limited to the relatable fallibility of its feeble protagonist. He’s elderly by numbers and curmudgeonly as such yet his trademark wit remains intact if dormant. As suggested by a last-ditch effort to preserve said intellect for the sake of fully recollecting the case at the film’s core, Holmes longs for closure and is as affected by his evolving epiphany as you or I would be. He’s essentially a fallible everyman of above-average intelligence, of whom is a far cry from the spry superhero type gracing the recent blockbuster re-imagining of the character in his absolute prime.
The involving procedural aspects of Holmes’ capers aren’t entirely absent however, as they’re deftly employed during intermittent bursts of clarity that engage as you’d expect them to. Spliced with his increasingly dire home life, Mr. Holmes draws obvious but affecting parallels between his and Roger’s bond and what the end result of his full recollection yields. It’s far from hokey in its exploitation of this emotionality on the basis of relatable authenticity alone, a general air of simplicity failing to hamstring the proceedings thanks to both inventiveness and McKellen’s predictably stellar turn as the titular legend.
With a resolution that may ring a bit too tidy for some, Mr. Holmes can be branded as either innocuous or entirely lovable with little room in between. Its aim is simple in illustrating a conflicted old man’s cathartic ruminations, yet the affecting earnestness in which it’s all conveyed is both commendable and effective. Although McKellen is largely to thank for a bulk of the film’s charismatic aura, Mr. Holmes‘ apt singularity of scenario is intriguing from the get-go and subsequently well-executed in a manner that’s satisfying on multiple fronts.