Film Reviews

SO IT GOES – <i>Mr. Holmes</i> (2015)

SO IT GOES – Mr. Holmes (2015)

Sarah Gough-Piazza

July 31st, 2015


Sherlock Holmes is the world’s most renowned detective. Having been portrayed in film and other media more times than any other fictional human character, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s protagonist is known for his relentless wit and his ability to read people and situations better than the common person. In all of these portrayals, Holmes is shown doing what Doyle intended him to do: sleuthing. However, never has Sherlock Holmes been portrayed as something other than the commonly romanticized character with the inability for human attachment … until now.

Mr. Holmes, directed by Bill Condon and based on Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, presents Sherlock Holmes (Sir Ian McKellen) not as the charismatic character that is normally portrayed, but rather as a melancholy old man who has to live with the pressures of being a character in another’s book. The movie takes place in 1947, when Holmes is 93 years old and no longer able to live his younger self’s life of mystery and adventure. Holmes befriends the keeper of his estate, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), as well as her young son Roger (Milo Parker).

From the beginning of the movie, it becomes clear that due to Holmes’ advancing age, he begins to forget small aspects of his everyday life: names, faces, and past events. Holmes tries desperately to remember the case of Mrs. Kelmot, the wife of a wealthy man who is concerned with the irregular behavior his wife has expressed after the unfortunate miscarriages she had endured. Mr. Holmes pits his obsession and need to remember specific traits and characteristics about the case against his deteriorating mental capabilities, all the while living in the fictionalized world in which “Sherlock Holmes” has become a household name.

McKellen inhabits the role magnificently, playing both the charismatic character in his prime days, as well as the more mentally and physically challenged Holmes. The juxtaposition of the two characters is made remarkable through McKellen’s embodiment of both the younger and older Holmes. The film progresses through multiple timelines: that of Holmes living on his estate in 1947, that of a trip Holmes has recently taken to Japan, and flashbacks of the Kelmot case as he begins to remember details. McKellen’s acting, along with the support from Linney and Parker in relation to the current day events, give a variety of outlooks and perspectives for the film in general. The flashback scenes allow the audience a more typical view of Sherlock Holmes as the witty detective, while the “current” storyline allows the uncommon portrayal of Sherlock the person.

However, even as the movie presents three extremely strong intertwined storylines instead of one linear plot, constant changes in setting and time make it easy to get lost within the story, unsure how one aspect from one timeline affects another. Even the superb performances are sometimes overshadowed by the constant changing of scene, setting, and story. The multiple plot lines allow the movie to have more depth in relation to the overall story as well as providing three extremely interesting stories; however, the way in which it is done within Mr. Holmes slightly distracts from the character development that is so important to the film.

Overall, Mr. Holmes does not disappoint those looking for the classic Sherlock experience. It is common throughout the film to see Holmes deducing things about people around him, as well as reading a majority of situations with the common wit and sarcasm that is associated with Doyle’s character. The film not only gives us a familiar take on the classic character but also allows a different and slightly refreshing characteristic that is commonly taken out in order to preserve the persona: a humanistic quality that allows the audience to relate more to his character rather than romanticize the mystery behind Doyle’s protagonist. It’s a hard feat, but Mr. Holmes ultimately casts a brand new light on the most widely portrayed character of all time.

Sarah Gough-Piazza is a senior at the University of Oregon studying comparative literature with a concentration in German and creative writing. She spends her time obsessively browsing YouTube and Tumblr, and has come to the conclusion that she likes dogs more than humans. So It Goes is an irregular column in which she provides critical analyses of films screening locally.

One Comment

  1. Delores Maxwell-Champoux says:

    I enjoyed your rendition of Holmes. Now I would like to see the movie. Thank you for sharing.

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