Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Mr. Holmes

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Mr. Holmes (MiramaxRoadside Attractions)

Mr. Holmes

Directed by Bill Condon

Written by Jeffrey Hatcher  Based on A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin

Starring Ian McKellenLaura LinneyHiroyuki Sanada & Milo Parker

Mr. Holmes is a beautiful movie about Sherlock Holmes at the end of his life. He is in his nineties and long retired. Suffering from Arthritis and Alzheimer’s some time after the second world war. It is a lovely meditative drama about his friendship with the young son of his housekeeper. A fantastic movie with an astonishingly poignant performance by Sir Ian McKellen. Well-directed and acted and beautifully written. I liked it a lot.

Verdict: SPARED

Mr. Holmes and Roger

I don’t know if you know this about me but you should, I’m a big fan of sports. We root for a team or for an athlete and when they do well, we call them heroes. I call them heroes. Yet they’re not heroes in any real sense. Not healers or warriors or leaders. They are fictional heroes. Heroes of the game. Only slightly more real than superheroes or heroes from literature. Sherlock Holmes is one of my literary heroes. My fictional hero. My first actually. But when you’re a fan of a player of any sport, one of the key developing dynamics of that hero-worship, in fact, that athletes greatest opponent, is the passing of time. Watching a… watching your heroes age and their skills diminish is something that they don’t tell you about when you sign up to be a sports fan. However our literary heroes, for the most part, don’t grow old before our eyes. We are spared that.

Ian McKellen as Mr. Holmes

In Mr. Holmes, our hero, my hero, is frail and sickly. A shadow of himself. And it’s painful to watch. His memory and concentration are not just waning. They’re almost gone. Alzheimer’s takes so much of you. For we are merely a collection of events and memories and thoughts. A wondrous stream of thoughts  And my own fear of losing those things in myself made the viewing even more disturbing. I don’t know if you know this about me but I fear losing my thoughts. Losing my words. Losing myself.

Ian McKellen and Laura Linney

But what we have in Mr. Holmes is a beautifully told story about Sherlock’s relationship to time. About his relationship to his memory and to his housekeeper and to his bees and to his mortality and to his fictional image and to the young boy who helps him to remember what it was that he was trying to forget so much that he ran away from his life and his career. Helps him to remember what he was trying to forget before his advanced age forced him to forget.


I loved this movie. I don’t know if you know this about me but I start to wax poetic when I see something I like. However I plan to stop myself before it gets out of hand. But honestly, what a beautiful story. It tumbles slowly across the screen like the beautiful hills on the countryside where most of it is set. It plays with time and space and memory and jumps from the recent past to the distant past. Never telling us more than Sherlock himself remembers. So we too are trapped in the fog of unknowing, remembering or mis-remembering our hero in better and more cognitive times.


And before I do get carried away I will leave you with this. I don’t know if you know this about me, but those things and people and movies and whatever it may be, those moments in life and art that make me want to write. That fill me with the urge to put pen to paper, fingertip to keys, they are my favorite things in this world. Mr. Holmes, a film about my first hero fighting his way through old age and mental deterioration to chronicle the story of his last case, to write, to write, to write it down. well that… passionately, makes me want to write… right now.

Sherlock Holmes

And for that I will love it forever.

– Mel


4 thoughts on “Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Mr. Holmes

  1. I love the Sherlock Holmes story, the new BBC show, the Robert Downey Jr. movies, and I was excited to hear about this different take. You’re absolutely right, the decline of a hero is heartbreaking and is something Hollywood often is afraid to show us. Yet it’s very poignant and makes us reflect on our own lives. I’d forgotten this movie was coming out, thanks for reminding me.

    Liked by 1 person

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