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Mr. Holmes

Quiet, slow-moving mysteries with old men and little boys are rare nowadays, and that may be one of the reasons I enjoyed Mr. Holmes so much. This movie is a pleasant time out for anyone, who loves a good story. There is nothing particularly deep about it, but the film evinces a nice moral, extoling caring about those around you and trying to see things from their point of view.

Mr. Holmes is of course the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, played by Ian McKellen, but here he is late in life, in retirement after he has misjudged a case and becomes consumed with guilt over the death of a young woman he believes he has pushed to commit suicide. McKellan plays Holmes both in flashback and the present-day and does an extraordinary job of appearing both dashing, arrogant and blindingly intelligent in the younger role, as well as doddering, self-pitying, and unreasonably selfish as the old man. Laura Linney is magnificent as the housekeeper, who has to put up with him; her Welsh accent is beautifully consistent and agreeable to listen to. Her son is played by Milo Parker, a boy who is as confident and professional as he is boyish and appealing. There are no misses among this cast, and that helps make the movie the pleasure it is.

Any film about Holmes is going to elevate reason to heights generally not appreciated in the twenty-first century, but the film is true to postmodern form in that Holmes’s development as a character is from selfish, aging detective to gentler, kinder protector of Linney and her son. The detective grows more and more at peace, as he discovers things about himself and his two housemates, some revealed by the boy, but others by his own process of self-discovery through probing elements of the case he has suppressed all these years. Under the skillful direction of Bill Condon, what sounds like a mind-numbing journey of psychoanalysis becomes a brief, but engaging, human story of intrigue and mystery.

The movie feels shorter than its hour and forty-four minutes, and it does not contain any transcendent dimension, but most movie-lovers will enjoy this throwback to another age of films that wish to entertain simply and winsomely.

Drew Trotter

August 12, 2015

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