Benedict Cumberbatch need not worry his boots are being filled. Ian McKellen’s take on Sherlock Holmes is more Sunday teatime viewing than prime-time blockbuster, but its stately pace doesn’t preclude Mr. Holmes (2015) from being a delightful romp all the same. McKellen reunites with director Bill Condon, who helped him to an Oscar nomination as James Whale for Gods and Monsters (1998), in this tale of the detective’s twilight years, retired to a chocolate-box Sussex cottage and long since retired from sleuthing. He still gets spotted (“Is that ‘im?” asks a passer-by), his reputation settled by Dr Watson’s stories published decades previously.
An irascible Holmes disapproves of the tales, calling them “penny dreadfuls in elevated prose style”, irritated by Watson’s made-up superfluous storytelling. He never wore a deerstalker and never smoked a pipe, “an embellishment of the illustrator” he complains to one ignorant fan. Living with housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney, with an off-putting country accent) and her son Roger (Milo Parker), Holmes retreats to beekeeping to fill the days. But a trip to the cinema to see an actor play himself in one of Hollywood’s adaptations of Watson’s stories (a genius black and white film-within-a-film) forces him to return to the case in question – which proved to be his last ever. When Roger follows Holmes’ passion for bees, he discovers that he is writing a new version which sets out the truth.
Ed Frankl | @Ed_Frankl