In his book A Slight Trick of the Mind, Mitch Cullin saw Sherlock Holmes as an old man past 90 who regrets the silly legends that have grown around him and, in his rather testy retirement, tries to solve a previous case that has always baffled him.
Bill Condon’s film takes a few liberties with the book but has a splendid performance as Holmes from Ian McKellen, freed at last from making money in movies which don’t try his abilities unduly.
Devoting himself to bee- keeping and the young boy, son of his country housekeeper, who follows him around, Holmes reflects on a life that doesn’t seem to him anything like as successful as his myriad of fans seem to think. It is a good conceit, and McKellen, Laura Linney and Milo Parker go for it wholeheartedly.
But it is, of course, McKellen’s film, and he shows us how the old regret and bluster about the past at the same time. In physical detail too, he is spot-on. And all this makes Mr Holmes a good watch despite its often quite ordinary making. Not a patch on the other Brit entrant, 45 Years, as good a film as we’ve had in the competition so far. But nice all the same.