Mr. Holmes (2015) is more than just another revisionist Sherlock Holmes story. It’s also a story about losing oneself to “senility” – and the struggle to maintain one’s identity and self-esteem.
I found this added dimension to be especially poignant since I have aging relatives. I’ve seen in Holmes’ face (played superbly by Ian McKellan) the same expression I’ve seen in nursing home residents who I’ve passed by while visiting.
A little bit heart-wrenching, to be sure.
However, McKellan’s Holmes never asks us in the audience (or anyone in the film) to feel sorry for him. He simply goes on about his business – which in this case it trying to remember how he botched his last case to the point that it led to his retirement as a detective.
There are no stereotypes here.
The self-assuredness of Basil Rathbone, the drug-addicted intensity of Jeremy Brett, or even the wing-chun mastery of Robert Downey, Jr. – all go by the wayside. Holmes, in this case, is, simply, a professional detective – and decidedly not like the “embellishments” his former colleague, John Watson, used in “his stories”.
Here, Holmes is real. And I liked him. While true fans of the genre might not like this film, I enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s a little movie: quiet and understated. And a fine new look on an old icon of literature.