McKellen’s old school Holmes

A haunting cen­tral per­for­mance lifts this good look­ing drama

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Mr Holmes Cer­tifi­cate PG Stars Ian McKellen, Milo Parker, Laura Lin­ney, Hat­tie Mo­ra­han, Pa­trick Kennedy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Frances de la Tour, Colin Starkey, Sarah Crow­den

NO one is im­mune to the al­lure of that cruel and mer­ci­less mistress: time.

She saps strength and sup­ple­ness from ath­letic bod­ies, de­fies ev­ery cream to wither beauty and dulls the sharpest in­tel­lects.

Mr Holmes imag­ines the twi­light years of one of literature’s icons, who is fac­ing the grim re­al­ity of de­men­tia with what re­mains of his once-glo­ri­ous wit, aided by doses of a rare restora­tive plant from Ja­pan called Prickly Ash.

This Sher­lock, por­trayed with dig­nity and steely re­solve by Sir Ian McKellen, is no longer the aloof master of de­duc­tion who tra­versed the pages of Sir Arthur Co­nan Doyle’s imag­i­na­tion.

In­stead, he tends bees on the Sus­sex coast, haunted by the one case he failed to solve – if only he could re­call the facts.

Bill Con­don’s slow-burn­ing drama tests our lit­tle grey cells with a per­plex­ing sub­plot: The Cu­ri­ous Case Of The Thrice Os­car-Nom­i­nated Ac­tress And The Way­ward Ac­cent.

Laura Lin­ney is one of the finest per­form­ers of her gen­er­a­tion, but here she is un­done by a vo­cal de­liv­ery that roams wildly be­tween the West Coun­try, Ire­land and Amer­ica.

Her valiant strug­gles are an un­nec­es­sary dis­trac­tion.

The year is 1947 and Sher­lock Holmes (McKellen), now 93, is a shadow of the bril­liant lo­gi­cian, who once held court at 221b Baker Street flanked by Dr Wat­son (Colin Starkey) and Mrs Hud­son (Sarah Crow­den).

The age­ing sleuth has re­tired to Cuck­mere Haven, where he fusses over his hives, strug­gles to piece to­gether frac­tured mem­o­ries and in­fu­ri­ates his wid­owed house­keeper, Mrs Munro (Lin­ney).

Her spir­ited son Roger (Milo Parker) is fas­ci­nated by Sher­lock and the boy shows a nat­u­ral ap­ti­tude with the bees.

“Ex­cep­tional chil­dren are of­ten the prod­uct of un­re­mark­able par­ents,” Holmes coldly ob­serves, wound­ing Mrs Munro.

The lad inspires Sher­lock to delve into the fog of the past to re­call his only un­solved case – a miss­ing per­son en­quiry in 1919 in­volv­ing a dis­traught hus­band, Thomas Kel­mot (Pa­trick Kennedy), and his beau­ti­ful wife Ann (Hat­tie Mo­ra­han).

As Sher­lock’s ad­dled mind drifts be­tween that ill-fated pre-war in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the present, the old man edges ever closer to an in­glo­ri­ous end.

Mr Holmes is distin­guished by McKellen’s mea­sured cen­tral per­for­mance and the strong sup­port from ris­ing star Parker.

The script slowly un­rav­els the myth of the literary sleuth, in­clud­ing one bit­ter­sweet scene of the age­ing Sher­lock watch­ing a film in which Basil Rath­bone por­trays him with un­nat­u­ral gusto.

Plot­ting is pedes­trian – there are no twists or big re­veals – al­low­ing us plenty of time to marvel at the pic­turesque lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing one breath-tak­ing shot of the White Cliffs of Dover.

We’ll meet Holmes again, in many dif­fer­ent guises, but few will be as heart­break­ingly frail or haunting as this.

Ian McKellen brings dig­nity to his per­for­mance of Sher­lock Holmes

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