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With Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Sherlock Holmes out there, as well as Benedict Cumberbatch, having another Holmes out there seems like over saturation. However, this Holmes is Sir Ian McKellen. Someone who, honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen in anything besides the X-Men films. So, needless to say, I found myself interested in this film due to seeing how he would handle the iconic character, especially considering Holmes hasn’t been played by a man of McKellen’s age before – to my knowledge.
Characters & Story
It’s 1947 and the great Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) is in his 90s and while he still has the capabilities of remaining the great detective he is known for, unfortunately, a failing memory is getting the best of him. Thankfully, though, while Watson may not live with him, he does have the company of Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), his housekeeper, and her son Roger (Milo Parker).
But it is his relationship with Roger which matters most in the film, for Roger is the one who helps Holmes’ memory. Something he dearly wishes to keep a firm grasp on for it seems while his detective days are over, he does wish to clear up a few mysteries. Primarily in the form of clearing up any embellishments Dr. Watson may have created while telling the stories of the various cases he helped Mr. Holmes with.
Leading to the focus of this movie which deals with two cases: The first being Holmes following one Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan), at the request of her husband Thomas (Patrick Kennedy), and the second being Tamiki Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada) asking of Holmes for more information on his father, who seemingly spoke to Holmes before coming to the decision of never returning to Japan again.
While a Sherlock Holmes mystery is always interesting, what kept my attention the most was Holmes’ interaction with Roger. If only because Sherlock Holmes has primarily been a figure whose only real human connection came with Dr. Watson, a character sparingly used, but often referred to, in the movie. So watching McKellen and Parker interact felt like a unique treat, and alongside showing an older Sherlock Holmes, arguably it created a unique appeal for the movie. For truly, while Parker doesn’t have much on his filmography listing, he did go toe to toe with McKellen quite well and definitely fostered the idea that Holmes was some sort of figure he idealized and emulated. A feeling which, by movie’s end, we see is mutual.
But, to touch on the mysteries, which are due to Holmes’ failing memory, to be honest, I could barely keep interest. Which I won’t say is any fault of the film, but just because I’m so used to a more action oriented Holmes that even with the usual deductive reasoning, and quips here and there, I never found myself caring about either Ann or Tamiki’s issue. Though perhaps that is because neither story is developed to the point of leading you to want to care.
Though perhaps it is more Tamiki’s case which is the liability than Ann’s. For, at the very least, one could justify and take interest in the Ann Kelmot case for it was the one which led Holmes to decide to retire. As for Tamiki’s? Well, all that is done there is we learn how far the Holmes legend had traveled and it seemed more about the legend Dr. Watson built than about the man in the flesh proving himself worthy of such stories .
For, granted, Ann’s case may have been what led to Holmes’ retirement, but with us jumping back and forth in time between 3 storylines, and it not being as well executed as it was in Dark Places.
Overall: TV Viewing
For me, it is all about Holmes’ relationship with Roger. If only because we are given so little in the way of watching McKellen be Detective Sherlock Holmes, that even with his talents it is nowhere near enough. Which is the main reason this is being labeled TV Viewing. For while we get to see a new type of Holmes, one which is old, and seemingly open to human connection with someone outside Dr. Watson, unfortunately, the film focuses more so on the man than the legend, and the man himself is only interesting due to Sir McKellen playing him. If it was anyone else, though, I do believe this film could have been something to skip.
Things To Note
: An argument for the significance of the Tamiki story is that due to the way he treated Ann, he may have solved the case, but he didn’t necessarily fix the problem. For while he showed he understood her, it seemed he lacked the empathy she needed. So, when it comes to Tamiki, being that Holmes did play a hand in his misery, I guess he decided that rather than handle this person as he did Ann, he would tell him what he wished to hear so that Holmes would have one less guilt weighing on his conscience.