Mr. Holmes

Last night, Phillip and I watched the latest from our Netflix queue: A wonderful film from 2015 named Mr. Holmes.

Ian McKellen plays the famous Sherlock Holmes, who, in the film, is a real person. The books, written by his friend Doctor John Watson, are fictionalized accounts of Mr. Holmes’ actual cases. (Nice touch: Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson actually lived across the street from 221B Baker Street. Dr. Watson used that address in his stories to throw off the fans.)

It’s now 1947, and Sherlock Holmes has retired, because of a case that ended tragically. Dr. Watson has married, and he and Mr. Holmes are estranged. Mr. Holmes is an elderly man, living in a cottage in the English countryside. He lives with a housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s young son, Roger. Roger idolizes Sherlock Holmes, which constantly worries the housekeeper – she’s lost her husband in the war, and doesn’t want to loose her son to Mr. Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes has taken up beekeeping. He’s also desperately searching for a cure for his growing dementia. Royal jelly hasn’t worked. At the start of the film, he’s returned from a trip to Japan, following a lead that prickly ash might be the cure he needs.

He’s also writing his first story. It’s a non-fiction account of that last, tragic case. He’s writing it to help him remember. (How much of the story actually happened, and how much is Dr. Watson’s fiction?)

One of the plots in the film is Mr. Holmes’ friendship with Roger, teaching the boy beekeeping. (The reason the housekeeper is so worried about Mr. Holmes’ influence over her son has to do with the way her husband died in the war.) Another plot is Mr. Holmes’ visit with Mr. Umezaki, in Japan, who had promised him the cure in the prickly ash. And another plot is the story of Sherlock Holmes’ last case – the one that ended his career. And there is Mr. Holmes’ battle against his declining health.

Mr. Holmes is an emotional drama, nicely acted and beautifully written.

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