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article imageReview: Ian McKellen is the most relatable ‘Mr. Holmes’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 17, 2015 in Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellan stars in ‘Mr. Holmes,’ which centres on the legendary detective who’s trying to outwit old age just long enough to solve one last mystery.
It’s difficult to imagine our heroes growing older and becoming less competent. They often seem as if they would remain ageless and infallible forever. This is only true of fictional characters, but they also provide an opportunity to address these issues through a personality with which people are already familiar and perhaps attached. It allows for a different perspective on the story and negates the necessity to build a connection because one already exists. Mr. Holmes features an aged Sherlock desperate to solve one last case.
Sherlock Holmes (Sir Ian McKellen) lives in seclusion in the country with his bees. He’s aided by a live-in housekeeper, (Laura Linney) and her young son, Roger (Milo Parker), to whom Holmes ultimately takes a liking. Recently returned from a journey to Asia, the retired investigator is more determined than ever to complete the only record of a case he’d ever commit to paper – Watson is the one who created the literary protagonist of the same name based on their assignments, but Holmes insists he got this one wrong. However, the chief obstacle to this seemingly simple task was once the famous detective’s greatest weapon: his mind. Alzheimer’s and poor health is hindering his progress, but Holmes always finds a way.
There are three stories presented parallel to each other. The first is the present in which Holmes curmudgeonly orders his household, lovingly tends to his bees and suffers spells of forgetfulness. His writing during this time creates a connection to the last case he worked before retiring. As he tries to remember the details and why this particular assignment forced him to quit, audiences watch it unfold. Beginning the day a woman’s husband sought the detective’s help, it follows the tale through to Holmes ultimately solving the mystery… but not the problem. The third story recounts his trip to Asia, where he searched for a natural remedy for his poor memory.
The narrative combines viewers’ fascination with the fantastic Holmes and their anxiety about age and illness. The fan element is kept alive by Roger, who idolizes the old man and demands the opportunity to become learned and someone of importance. His attempts to follow the detective’s logic in the case mirror the experience of anyone who’s read a mystery. On the other hand, Holmes is a private man who insists on managing his health with as little interference as possible. He seeks medicine doctors won’t provide and scoffs at medical opinions that try to make him bed-ridden. Yet, like all men, in spite of his best efforts his body continues to fail him and audiences watch as the once infallible hero loses his battle with time.
McKellan displays the juxtaposition flawlessly. The “younger” Holmes is stoic and calculating, confident in his deductive and shadowing abilities. Conversely, the elder Holmes is sometimes frail and exhibits a softer disposition as he confronts and tries to alter the loneliness he imposed on himself. Also, who can’t imagine the actor as an older Sherlock Holmes? Linney is the typically hardened domestic who runs a fairly strict household. Her role in the story is less significant than Parker’s, but she still plays an important part in Holmes’ care and redemption. Parker has all the enthusiasm of a fan and young person who has just realized he lives with his idol. Roger genuinely inspires Holmes and vice versa.
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney and Hiroyuki Sanada
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