Mr. Holmes (2015) is a Sherlock Holmes story featuring a 93-year-old Holmes (Sir Ian McKellen) long after the deaths of the primary characters in the Sherlock canon: Mycroft, Watson, Mrs. Hutchinson. We find Mr. Holmes with some land in the country, preoccupying himself with beekeeping, either as a hobby or as a desperate attempt to produce an antidote to his oncoming senility. The story is a winding one, often coming up against the hard walls of Mr. Holmes’ memory as he fights to recall why his last case was indeed his last case. As his apparent Alzheimer’s worsens, he enlists the help of a young Japanese man, clues found in his and Watson’s old belongings, and Roger, the young son of his housekeeper. Holmes uses all of his classic tricks to deduce not the killer of an unsolved mystery but the outcome of one he’s already solved and forgotten.
In many tellings of Sherlock Holmes, Holmes is depicted as a sociopath, someone without true empathy. Even in this movie, he insists that he has never mourned anyone’s death but is much more interested in discovering how they died. However, perhaps for the first time in his life he shows great pain at the loss of one young woman he only knew for fifteen minutes. Perhaps it is that he saw himself–his loneliness–in her that he was so touched by her death. Likewise, when Roger is hurt, we see his pain again, this time less selfish despair. Is this a mistelling of a true sociopath or does it uncover layers of Mr. Holmes’ personality other tellings have not dug deep enough to reveal?
Overall, a well told story and an astounding performance by Sir Ian McKellen.