By Alex. Kane
When I was in my early teens—a very, very long time ago—and had just finished reading the entire Canon for the first time, I remember wondering what an elderly, doddery, forgetful Holmes would be like. Bee keeping and observation sounded an ideal retirement for an ageing, less physically fit man: but how would he cope when he could no longer wander into his “brain attic” in search of his beloved facts? How would he feel when he reached that point in his life when he walked into a room and couldn’t remember why he was there?
In his 2005 novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, Mitch Cullin asked those questions. It wasn’t, to be honest, a particularly good book, yet as one of the first to present us with a frail, weak Holmes struggling to remember his career and recall what had driven him into retirement, it attracted attention from many Holmesians.
The decision to film it owes a lot to the huge interest that Holmes now generates, particularly for a new, younger audience. Robert Downey Jnr, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller have made Holmes very sexy for that audience. Ian McKellen, thanks to the Lord of the Ring and X-Men franchises, is also hugely popular with that audience. So it made sense to find a vehicle that combined Holmes and McKellen.
Mr Holmes is a tour de force performance from McKellen: but that’s about it, I’m afraid. The plot is weak, there isn’t really a mystery to speak of and Laura Linney and Milo Parker are barely even one-dimensional characters. But none of that matters. This is McKellen at the very top of his game: a great actor being allowed to portray a great literary character in a way that no one else has been allowed to portray him.
There’s really no point discussing other aspects of the film, because the only aspect that matters is McKellen. This is his film: his performance. This is what acting is about. I don’t think that any actor has won an Oscar for playing Sherlock Holmes, so I hope that McKellen, at the very least, receives a nomination.