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Mr. Holmes

This is a guest post from Courtland Hopkins, who I am trying to convince to become a regular writer at  

Sherlock Holmes has to be one of literature’s most beloved institutions. The obsessive, cocaine-using detective and his doctor sidekick have appeared throughout the 20th century in every form of media from silent films, talkies to radio and television. Some of these titles include the classic Basil Rathbone films in the 40’s to the excellent BBC series “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch,  as well as Guy Ritchie’s series starring Robert Downey Jr.  There’s also a whole series of “non-canonical” novels written by authors who could not get enough of Sherlock. The film in question is based on one of these stories, A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullim.  

The most intriguing thing about “Mr. Holmes” is its premise that Sherlock Holmes was real and reality was somewhat different than the Sherlock Holmes we know from the stories. His life was embellished by Doctor Watson, who chronicled his adventures for the world to read. It is 1949 and Holmes (played by a sublime Sir Ian McKellan) is now 93 years old with a failing memory. He is cared for at his country home by a widow Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her precocious son Roger (Milo Parker). The film finds Sherlock trying to cope with his age and trying to prevent the total failure of his memory.

The film’s pace is deliberate and slowly crafts an excellent story revolving around the relationship between Holmes and this young boy, as well as the remorse revolving his final case. The outcome of Sherlock’s last case was one that caused him to retire to the countryside. The film takes several unexpected turns and goes to locales which surprised me. This film is well done with solid performances that complement the telling of a compelling and entertaining tale.  

The part that impressed me was the fact that it weaved themes of fandom as well as regret revolving a character that we tend to think is immune from these troubles. The fact that Sherlock Holmes is not immortal is a compelling premise. I loved the fresh angle on Sherlock Holmes; he is made of flesh and bones underneath that deerstalker cap.

There is something exciting about a beloved character facing mortality. We tend to give characters we love immortal lives. They are bigger than us and they can never die. But this does the character a disservice because they miss a fundamental truth of the life of humankind, the fact that we all are doomed to die and when characters we love face their end a truth is born, they are like us and face aging and death. The best stories are when you don’t know when a character you love may die; the excitement of the tale is in its peril and doubt. “Mr. Holmes” does this beautifully. See it when you can.  



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Posted in All Reviews, By Courtland Hopkins.

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