With many adaptations in recent years of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character and stories of Sherlock Holmes, Bill Condon steps away from the traditional storyline and mystery-style themes of the character to create a fresh take on the pop culture icon. Based on the novel, A Slight Trick Of The Mind by Mitch Cullen, this refashioning of the story takes place when Sherlock Holmes is in his 90s. This embarks us on a new tale, away from John Watson and Mrs. Hudson and all the stories we have come to know.
This new twist on the story is set in 1947 away from the Victorian Baker Street and set in a cottage near the English seaside. An aging Mr. Holmes (Ian McKellen) returns from a trip to Japan, where he was in search of a rare plant with powerful restorative qualities, to help his now poor memory. Now living in his cottage, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with his only company being his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her son, Rodger (Milo Parker). Holmes, now reliant on the young boy, tries to revisit an unsolved case that forced him into a state to become a retired detective.
While the character is almost unrecognisable from the iconic Sherlock Holmes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, Ian McKellen gives an incredible performance, portrays the character of Holmes, beautifully. He was able to convey the true emotions underneath the cocky exterior we are used to seeing from Holmes. McKellen was able to convincingly show the struggles the man is going through during his old age, being able to express the fear that many elderly fall in, becoming terrified of their own personal battles.
The focus on the film leaves the notion of Sherlock Holmes, his wit and the wondrous mysteries he has been able to solve throughout his life, and turns towards the character’s sense of guilt of failure within his spiral of memory failure. The journey of the sense of panic throughout his body, the film is able to wittingly show his newfound nature of love, which is shown through his strong fondness and friendship with Rodger.
However, while we are busy going along with the journey of this character’s fall, it is evident that at times the plot is weak. While through flashbacks, we witness two mysteries that Holmes has solved; it has only a small amount of screen time and at points feels a bit anti-climactic. The film seemed to focus more on the old man and him coming to terms with his memory loss and the end stages of his life.
All in all, I think the film was a great adaptation of how the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes would play out after the events of Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s books. The film gives a great nostalgic feel and enables a picturesque view on the future of the much loved character and due to McKellen’s charisma, created a very enjoyable film!
The film will have a wider release later this month.