Rated: PG for thematic elements, some disturbing images and incidental smoking. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 17, 2015 Released by: Roadside Attractions
Another interesting collaboration between Sir Ian McKellen (of The Lord of The Rings and X-Men films) and director Bill Condon involves the renowned Victorian sleuth most memorably played by Basil Rathbone before Robert Downey, Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch came along.
The 76-year-old thespian gets to look pretty convincing thanks to effective make-up artistry in two different frames, especially the older nonagenarian one living as a beekeeper (remember "Ulee's Gold" with Peter Fonda?) in 1947 in Kent on the Sussex coast. The talent extends to the costuming for the title character that includes a waistcoat.
The point-of-view offered up in the scripting (less cerebral in its cryptology) by Jeffrey Hatcher (The Duchess) lets flash-backing evolves around a primary narrative where McKellen's Sherlock provides bee and detective knowledge for the inquiring Roger (Milo Parker). Who happens to have a hard-nosed mother Mrs Munro (an effulgent Laura Linney) toiling as the chambermaid.
A lot is going on in a withering, senile mind which recalls a case some three decades hence with a glass harmonica and a rare restorative Japanese annual strangely integrated into a motif concerning sorrow over past actions. In touching on Dr. Watson's exaggerated accounts, McKellen etches a multi-faceted figure filled with child-like desire and surprising gentleness that makes for engaging amiable interplay with a palatable Parker. What comes most vividly besides an aficionado (Hiroyuki Sanada) having him in post-war Japan onto something is the anxious husband (Patrick Kennedy) coaxing him to trail his wife (Hattie Morahan).
Around various parts of a prodigious peeling away of a life with homologous discoveries are sound supporting contributions by Phil Davis, Roger Allam, and Frances de la Tour, among others. Condon knows and respects McKellen as well as anyone from the memorable character of James Whale, a troubled film director, to allow him to thoughtfully inhabit an icon. If the unhurried plotting doesn't render a fulfilling dramatic conclusion or persuasive potboiler, then an aging "Mr. Holmes" rises from the enigmatic internal braiding with unique timelessness and grace.