First Hit: A slow meandering beginning that builds momentum towards being a more interesting film at the end.
This film is about forgiveness, aging, kindness, facts and uncovering the real story of Sherlock Holmes.
We meet Sherlock (Ian McKellen) when he’s 93 years old. He’s retired, has difficulty remembering things, his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker) are his only touch with the outside world.
He thinks that Mr. Watson reimagined his detective exploits into interesting books/stories. He’s hung up on his last case, what happened, and why he quit being a detective.
The film traces brief memories of what happened and when we do the film transports us back to that time. McKellen plays both parts and it almost works. Him being the doddering forgetful old man and the younger Sherlock who is logical and only thinking about and using the facts to deduce his actions. When he realizes the times in his life he could have been more compassionate, the film softens and lands beautifully.
McKellen was great as a 93 year old man whose faculties are failing him. His covering up his forgetfulness (looking at his sleeve for the boy’s name) juxtaposed with the times he’s feeling full of himself (swimming with Roger) was really good. Linney did great in a very restrained role where she eventually embraces her lot as Holmes rewards her loyalty. Parker was very strong as the curious, inventive, thoughtful, and independent boy and friend of Holmes. He was the best part of the film. Mitch Cullin and Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a up and down script, which at times was too doddering. Bill Condon did a great job of sharing the beautiful English countryside and some of the interior shots were very effective. The story was too slow to start which I think he could have made different.
Overall: A strong good film, but not in the upper echelon.