Sunday, November 20, 2016
REVIEW: Mr. Holmes (live action movie)
In the movie's present, Sherlock Holmes is 93 and World War II has recently ended. He has just returned from a trip to Japan to acquire jelly made from the prickly ash plant, which he hopes will help his rapidly failing memory. While tending his bees and living a generally quiet life, Holmes strikes up a friendship with Roger, his housekeeper's inquisitive and intelligent young son. It is Roger who helps Holmes remember more details about his last case, the one that prompted him to retire to the countryside.
Viewers get glimpses of Holmes's trip to Japan (his memory so bad that he wrote his host's name on one of his sleeve cuffs so that he wouldn't embarrass himself) and also his final case. In that case, Holmes investigated a woman whose husband was worried she was being used. She'd had two miscarriages, and the only thing that seemed to help her grief was the music lessons her husband encouraged her to take. However, she became obsessed with the music and seemed to think it allowed her to communicate with her dead children. Watson's version of the case indicated that it ended successfully, but Holmes knows that can't possibly be true. If it were, why would he have quit being a detective afterward?
This was a very slow movie, almost too slow for my tastes. It was extremely painful to see Holmes this way, constantly forgetting people's names, things he said he'd do, and more. Even worse, he knew he was forgetting things, and a part of him knew that his efforts to get around his problem weren't quite good enough. The prickly ash was him grasping at straws.
I guessed how Holmes's last case had gone well before it was revealed, so that part didn't really interest me much. In general, this movie wasn't so much a Sherlock Holmes mystery as it was a sentimental drama. I had gone into it hoping for more of a mystery, so this and the general slowness of it all was a bit of a disappointment. I enjoyed Holmes and Roger's budding friendship, but found myself wishing this had been an adaptation of Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice instead.
Near the end of the movie, things became so depressing that I found myself wishing I'd never started watching it at all. Holmes was a lonely old man who'd become estranged from Watson, his best friend, and who had outlived all the people from the original stories (Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and more). He'd gained a new friend in Roger, but Roger's mother was determined to find employment elsewhere, before Holmes either died or deteriorated to the point that she'd have to be his nurse in addition to his housekeeper. Then a thing happened that made me feel like I'd been kicked in the gut, it was so horrible on top of everything else.
The movie does end fairly happily, but for a while there it was deeply depressing. I don't think I could watch it again. It was decent, I suppose, if not exactly enjoyable, but I have a feeling it would be far too sentimental for most Holmes fans.