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.