Mr Holmes (2015)

It’s 1947 and Mr Holmes (played by Ian McKellen) has long since retired to the country where he pursues beekeeping and is looked after by a housekeeper and her son, Roger. Mr Holmes is 93 in this tale and his memory is starting to fail him noticeably, which makes his task all the more difficult. His self-appointed task is to write an account of his final case before retiring, as on recently reading Doctor Watson’s account he realises the ending had been changed. This case revolves around a husband and wife who have lost two children, yet the wife Ann (played by Hattie Morahan) is unable to come to terms with this and it’s her inexplicable behaviour which makes her husband call Mr Holmes in. Through encounters with Roger (played by Milo Parker), Holmes attempts to piece together his final case and why it made him give up detecting.

I really enjoyed this film as although it was not detecting in a conventional sense, it was interesting to watch Mr Holmes with the help of Roger to lay the past to rest, while also impacting them in the present for better or worse. The retrospective focus also reminded me of a novel I have read recently called Elizabeth is Missing (2014) by Emma Healey, where a woman suffering from dementia tries to find answers to two mysteries: the disappearance of her friend and sister. I also thought this film made a change from the other recent Sherlock Holmes’ adaptations such as BBC’s Sherlock (which I really like) and the two Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr. (which conversely I did not like) where Sherlock is in his prime. Looking at a fictional detective when he is very elderly, his powers fading was engaging to watch. Moreover, Mr Holmes and another character, Tamiki Umezaki discuss how Dr. Watson portrays Holmes in his stories. I found it interesting how the characters surmise that this depiction in return affected Holmes’ own character, as he had to meet the expectations created by the stories and I thought this was an intriguing take on the Sherlock Holmes phenomena.

I would recommend this film, as it has an interesting plot and great characters expertly played by a strong cast of actors. Furthermore, since the plot line does not directly involve real Sherlock Holmes stories, it means people like me will avoid getting irritated by films radically changing the plot of a story which you’ve read.


  1. I was very moved by this adaptation which is fairly faithful to the novel. The movie does an exemplary job of taking the three story lines and interweaving them more successfully. Cullin’s novel is more experimental in how the three stories are told almost simultaneously and ironically the written word can be more hallucinatory than images, I think. Since the title of the novel is A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND it really is all about Holmes’ slow realization of the disintegration of his intellectual capacity and his failure to recall with ease his memories. The movie is at its best in the scenes between the boy and Holmes. In passing I’ll add that I wasn’t thrilled with Laura Linney’s accent. Was she supposed to be Irish? I’m always amazed how some actors have no capacity or understanding on how to master a regionalism or accent. She clearly didn’t work at it at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact it was based on a book so I’ll definitely have to track it down as I agree that Holmes mental disintegration would be interesting to read on the page and would take a great deal of skill to pull off (like Emma Healey does in Elizabeth Missing, where her narrator is suffering from dementia).


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