I’ve been looking forward to Mr. Holmes since I first saw a trailer for it. Just from that it appeared to be lush, charming, and intriguing. I just finished watching it at last and it was all of that, and more.
It got off to a slow start to the point that I was a little disappointed at first. Over the course of the movie I learned a little screenwriting lesson. There is a subtle, but great, difference between a slow start and a slow build. Under the brilliant acting mantle of the great Sir Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes builds a foundation, then layer upon layer of…everything that makes an unforgettable movie.
The case becomes cases, nestled together like a Russian nested doll. They interweave, though at first they seem unconnected. They seem at odds, they almost war with each other, until they become clearly woven threads that hold together the very fabric of Sherlock Holmes’ later life.
Holmes himself is as complex and fascinating as any of his cases. Old, fading, and frail, he seeks to remember the events that were his undoing. In doing so he unravels himself and those around him, until at last he is able to right wrongs and emerge stronger and more able to be the man he carried always inside himself. As part of his last case, he makes the lives of others profoundly better. He accomplishes what we all might wish for in our old age. He leaves his world and those who have fallen into its orbit better than if he’d done nothing.
Ian McKellen is one of the finest actors of our time, and with seamless ease embodies an elderly Sherlock Holmes with dignity and grace and a twinkly measure of humor. He moves through the gorgeous scenery and takes us with a latter day Sherlock on a tour of the English coastal countryside and period London, as he guides us into the inner workings of the most formidable detective’s mind.
A movie of unexpected depths, heartbreak and joy, Mr. Holmes leaves the viewer with thoughts and images, ideas and characters, rights and wrongs enough to keep the thought process going for some time to come.