Do you read and re-read the works of Arthur Conan Doyle? Will you naturally gravitate to any production that involves an Agatha Christie character? Faced with a real life crime, do you begin to think like Philip Marlowe and talk like Inspector Clouseau? In short, are you a mystery junkie? Then Mr. Holmes is just what you’ve been waiting for – the last hurrah of fiction’s greatest detective.
Set after the Second World War, Sherlock (Ian McKellan) inhabits a sprawling farmhouse in a remote part of Sussex with his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker). He is a grumpy, demanding curmudgeon who resents the deerstalker-wearing character created by his deceased friend John Watson. However at 93 his bitterest regret is the slow loss of his mental faculties. Before he dies Holmes is determined to put to rest his greatest unsolved mystery – the one that led him to abandon detective work altogether. But how can he hope to solve a case that’s sinking into a sea of forgetfulness?
Mr. Holmes is somewhat like Memento in the way it steps backwards through the detective’s memories, slowly assembling the fragments of its mystery until a most unexpected villain emerges. However the goal of the film is not so much a clear conviction as a conviction of conscience.
Sherlock has spent his life priding himself on his detachment – “My feelings do not matter – the facts are all that are important,” – yet he comes to realise that his single-minded devotion to the intellect has not only separated him from the world, it has been the cause of great harm. He may have solved any number of diabolical mysteries but he admits to Roger he has missed the path of angels:
“Do whatever it takes to calm and comfort others – this is the duty of every human being.”
Or, as Jesus puts it, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” (Mark 12:30-31) the commandment that comes second only to loving God.
Mr. Holmes is not a Christian film but Sherlock’s realization is a Biblical one. Believer or non-believer, if we intend on doing anyone any good, we must begin and end by loving them. Otherwise all that is left is pride’s clanging gong.More