“Mr. Holmes” Shows New Side of Sherlock

Hello movie fanatics, Deppsters/Cumberbabes/Gyllenhaalics, cinematography buffs, Netflix lovers, award show trackers and everyone else!

When I walk into the movie theater, always with a bucket of popcorn perfect for sharing, I pick a seat in the top-middle half of the theater. I like to soak in the previews, which will usually indicate the general vibe of the film you are about to see (independent film, action film, historical drama, etc.) and always laugh at the fact that they usually show trailers for movies that will not be coming out for eight or 10 months. As I watch the film, the costuming is always the first thing to catch my eye.

The magic of bringing a story from imagination to reality involves many intricate details working together as one, but when you are sitting in front of a big (or small) screen, the visuals are the aspect that sticks with you most. One recent film I saw was “Mr. Holmes,” another reimagining and extension of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic.

It tells the story of an older Sherlock Holmes, played by Sir Ian McKellen, years into retirement and slowly inching towards one hundred, having lost Watson to alcoholism, and living with a new caretaker, the widowed Mrs. Munro, and her young son Roger. Through masterful makeup and hair in combination with McKellen's pointed and stalled body language, Holmes has visibly aged. The lauded actor gives a truly masterful performance, bringing the complex history of Mr. Holmes’ life into a surly, reticent old man who is slowly growing more and more forgetful and reluctantly reliant upon others.

It’s easy to imagine Benedict Cumberbatch’s focused and fussy Sherlock (BBC’s “Sherlock”) or Johnny Lee Miller’s methodical and drug-addicted Sherlock (CBS’s “Elementary”) aging into this disenchanted and slowed older gentleman. (It’s a bit harder to see Robert Downey Jr.’s action hero mature into McKellen’s man-with-a-cane.)

Mrs. Munro is played by a dreary and tired-looking Laura Linney. Directed by Bill Condon and based on a novel by Mitch Cullin, the film follows three main story lines: the current life of Mr. Holmes, hidden away in a cottage on the English coast and left to tend to his bees as he struggles to record his last case; a 30-year-old case involving a young woman sunken in sorrow after suffering two miscarriages; and Sherlock’s more recent trip to Japan in search of a memory-saving herb from an herbalist with a family secret.

The stories intertwine throughout the 1.5-hour film, usually blending quite well and lending to a low-tension mystery. The occasional shakiness of the story’s timeline allows McKellen’s performance to shine through each time period. Mr. Holmes tries to recall the exact details of the three-decade-old case by looking through his notes, concocting potions to aid his memory, and speaking through the case with the adorably curious Roger. We eventually see it tearing away at the last shreds of Sherlock’s dignity, memory and abilities as a detective. He eventually reveals that this case was the reason for his leaving the profession. 

The film is beautiful in more ways than one: the mid-nineteenth century British costuming; broad-scoping British and Japanese landscapes and cityscapes (including one eerie look at post-atomic bomb Hiroshima); and use of the classic soundtrack we all know to remind the viewer of the fast-paced adventures Sherlock lived through, while putting a slower, more determined twist on the melodies. “Mr. Holmes” focuses more on the character of Mr. Holmes than the action of his mysteries and adventures. Indeed, the man grows old alongside the legend that Dr. Watson created of him over the years.

The film ends as we would hope it would: Sherlock and Roger sitting in front of the quaint countryside cottage, the older recreating a Japanese tradition of creating a ring of stones to recall and remember lost loved ones, and the younger beginning to work on his next case—caring for the bees. One looking forward and one looking backwards.

I saw this film at the Laemmle Theater, located in the public city square off Indian Hill Blvd. They show most of the big name movies and some more artsy films, including foreign language films. The movies do change over quite frequently though, so if there's something you really want to see, go early!

A few tips: They have student rates on Sunday nights of $7 compared to the normal $12 and have matinee prices of $9, but you can also get $6 tickets at the Associated Students of Pomona College office to be used for any movie on any day. They will occasionally host special film events, including showings of classic oldies, recordings of Metropolitan Opera performances, and the Oscar-Nominated Short Films in February. 

Victoria Andersen PO '18 will be writing a bi-weekly film column that focuses on recently released films, buzz about movies, and other related happenings.

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