Mr. Holmes features strong acting, but is marred by weak plot

By Preman Koshar || Arts & Entertainment Editor

Mr. Holmes, directed by Bill Condon, is the film industry’s latest take on Sherlock Holmes. Ian McKellan stars as the elderly and dementia-stricken detective, who has comfortably retired to his home in the English countryside. However, his final case’s solution still eludes him, and, through numerous flashbacks and stories told to his caretaker’s son (Milo Parker), he pursues it, even though he knows that its conclusion affected him so much that it caused him to decide to retire in the first place. While Holmes attempts to piece together his memories, he must deal with his constantly sensible but perpetually disagreeable caretaker, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney).

The acting in Mr. Holmes is generally well done. Most of the film is focused on Sherlock himself and McKellan does a great job of conveying a lot of strong emotions. However, the grouchy old man routine that he pulls for most of the movie, while skillful, is repetitive. It is an overdone archetype that added little to the overall quality of the film. Linney and Parker make good scene partners, but ultimately don’t stand out in any particular way. They are simply decent-quality background noise. The cinematography is above average, with several nice panoramic shots of the English countryside and coast. Holmes’ country house is situated very closely to England’s famous white cliffs, and there are several gorgeous shots of them and the surrounding fields. The more casual cinematography, during dialogue, for instance, was not nearly as impressive, but did not disappoint, either. The music was not very noticeable as a whole, but that wasn’t really a problem—it had a more moderate, pleasant presence in the background. The dialogue was very appropriate for the time period and characters: Holmes generally spoke as you would imagine a gentleman from the turn-of-the-century would, and the other characters’ dialogue followed suit, matching their respective time periods and locations. This made for a more engrossing movie experience as a whole. The plot was actually one of the most lackluster parts of the movie. Holmes uncovered his past case at an excruciatingly slow pace, and his dementia became less and less interesting and more and more inevitable and depressing as the film went on. And—not to reveal any spoilers—but the big reveal about Holmes’ last case is truly underwhelming. It’s emotional, but not exciting or hard to guess in the least. The bonds that develop between characters feel a little falseand never really get the chance to fully develop. It’s unfortunate that this part of the film was neglected this much, as the actors’ performances and the general premise are quite intriguing.

Overall, Mr. Holmes is a well-acted, well-shot film that lacks a strong plotline to hook viewers in. Mr. Holmes would have greatly benefited from a big re-write of the script, among other tweaks. If Ian McKellan and Laura Linney had been paired with a competent script and some stronger supporting actors, this would have been a very different, very noteworthy film. But, sadly, that is not the case, and this film is solidly mediocre as a result.

Preman Koshar is the Arts & Entertainment Editor. His email is pkoshar@fandm.edu.

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