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Categories: Movie Reviews

Lynn Klein reviews Bill Condon’s “Mr. Holmes”, a pleasant but overcomplicated film which stars Ian McKellen as an aging Sherlock Holmes. 

Bill Condon’s newest feature film, Mr. Holmes, is an uneven piece that centers around the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes during the later stage of his life. He is now 93, and is retired in the countryside, taking care of his bees and reminiscing about his former life in Baker Street. His mind is not as sharp as it used to be, but with the help of his housekeeper’s son, he recreates some of his most memorable adventures. Half detective mystery, half tale of an aging man, Mr Holmes fails to convince.


We revisit some of Sherlock Holmes’ cases, learn of his regrets, and observe his search for a Japanese herb that is supposed to keep one’s mind sharp in old age. The well-known hero is played by Ian McKellen, who gives a great performance as the aging detective. He perfectly conveys the crabby old man, who gradually befriends a nosy young boy (Milo Parker), his housekeeper’s son, as he tries to wrap his head around his last, unsolved case.

Holmes’ mind is still sharp at times, but fading away at others. McKellen’s expressions and demeanor convey this struggle and are amongst the best features of the film. Laura Linney and Milo Parker are also convincing, playing the mother and son who live with Holmes and take care of him.


The plot of the film is, unfortunately, a little too dense. It uses flashbacks to travel back to Holmes’ past, but it travels to several points in time, confusing us in the process. There just a few too many flashbacks overall, marring the lovely story at the centre of the film. One confusing dream sequence, made with mediocre CGI effects, is not only useless, but ruins the mood of the film.

Luckily, the major portion of the film, which focuses on Holmes’ older life, is an enjoyable watch. Set in rural Sussex, the film features some lovely landscape shots, such as a view of the Seven Sisters cliffs. Mr Holmes’ lovely cottage, close to the beach, is a perfect setting for his retirement.


Given this the film is, overall, relatively pleasant, especially as it portrays one of the world’s most beloved characters in a way we haven’t seen before. His evolution from cranky old man to caring grandfather figure would be very endearing were it not constantly interrupted by the flashbacks the film uses far too often. Sadly, what could have been a strong study of the aging of a beloved man instead ends up a passable mixed bag that leaves behind a bitter taste. 

“Mr. Holmes” premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, and will be released in the UK on 19th June.


Lynn Klein is a journalist currently doing a print journalism MA at Sheffield. Unsurprisingly, she's a film buff with a love for art and indie film. Her favourite cinema is the Duke of Yorks in Brighton. Other interests include books, coffee and travelling.

Posted on Jun 1, 2015

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