Cast: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Milo Parker, Patrick Kennedy,Colin Starkey, Nicholas Rowe, John Sessions
Directed by: Bill Condon
How Mr Holmes understands the human heart! Let me clarify, I am talking not just about the central character but the movie per se.
Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted and helmed by Bill Condon, this mystery drama is based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind written by Mitch Cullin featuring the beloved characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Holmes devotees know that Doyle had tried to kill off his detective back in 1893. We know Holmes is immortal. A hundred years later Sherlock Holmes is flourishing on television and the wide screen portrayals. In Condon’s film, we meet the retired detective at his lovely Sussex home in 1947 after a trip to post-war Japan. How I wish Messrs Cullin/Condon had made it India! Oh well. The horrors of Hiroshima figures a lot, naturally, but it isn’t the war that takes Holmes to Japan but a personal meeting with the son of a Japanese diplomat.
In Sussex, Holmes tends to his beloved bees even as he is grappling with a new adversary – Alzheimers.His widowed housekeeper Mrs. Munro, (Laura Linney) resents his closeness to her young son, Roger (Milo Parker),who much in the manner of Dr Watson, encourages Holmes to complete the account of a last unsolved mystery which fills the old man with pain and guilt. As he tells Roger, don’t believe everything you read in the accounts authored by Dr Watson, whom he accuses of having embroidered facts. Or simply made them up. eg The deerstalker hat and the pipe. (“I prefer a cigar)
In one scene Sherlock goes to watch a film of one of Watson’s accounts of their adventures and huffs and puffs at the fiction. “Fiction is worthless…Logic is rare. “
Afflicted by dementia, Holmes continues to worship logic and reason.”I don’t believe in the imagination.” And yet, he knows, feels that he must somehow, for a reason he cannot explain, solve the mystery of a fading sepia photo of a beautiful woman.
I thought, at first, that it was his old love Irene Adler, the woman who betrayed him. But no. Between bouts of remembering and forgetting, Holmes pieces the puzzle that had been eluding him.His loneliness is assuaged by the little boy for whom he has sage advice (about saying sorry and honoring one’s parents) as also his mother who is unable to see the value of education in her craving for roti and kapda. That man doesn’t live by bread alone is something that her little boy discerns. As he snaps angrily, “She wants me to be a bootblack!”
That is so. Holmes is aging and anxious about the future, she wants to leave to work as a chambermaid in a hotel where small Roger will also be employed.
But Roger vastly prefers swimming with Sherlock in the sea below the white cliffs of Dover and learning beekeeping and even, his detective methods.Bees and housekeeper apart, all the other Doyle essentials are there. Such as the laudanum and the supernatural. A plotline in the film focuses on Sherlock’s use of a drug that he hopes will sharpen his memory. The mysterious and tragic woman (Hattie Morahan) in the photo is connected to a woman who teaches an instrument which is connected with the dead. The film ends with Holmes kneeling on the good earth and making a Druid like gesture.