All of us have Fictional Childhood Heroes, whether we choose to admit it or not. They may come from movies, cartoons, books, or even video games for those lucky (and rich) enough to grow up with a Playstaion or PS1 (I never grew up with a console because I was too busy fucking up the VHS player and its rewinder) and if there is one thing we all never thought about these heroes of ours, it was their age. As far as we were concerned, these guys were immortal and would go from one inspiring adventure to another with fuck next to breaks in between because, hey, they’re the best at what they do. We never once gave it a moment’s notice that if we had it our way, these guys would be at the age of 30 forever and doing nothing with their lives outside of evading danger’s grasps at every given opportunity. Thinking about that for a second, that life would suck balls in the long-run because if these heroes lived in our reality, they’d have no personal life to speak of and they’d be all broken and shit, both inside and out.
MR. HOLMES takes this deconstructive idea to heart and puts the Greatest Fictional Detective under its harsh gaze to show just what seniority would be for a man who made a name for himself by being the World’s Best Private Dick and Case Breaker in some high profile cases… and life sucks for him at the age of 93. It doesn’t just suck balls, it sucks shit and swallows the motherfucking thing while crying about life’s many regrets. MR. HOLMES, while not the most brutal deconstruction of a certain character archetype ever made, is still a pretty solid blow to the Sherlock Mythos so if you were expecting yet another grand game of twists and turns, you’re gonna be in for a shock here.
We’re all used to the Snarky And Wily Detective who can deduce a person’s entire past just by looking at the wrinkles in their skin thanks to many adaptations of the character, most recently seen in Guy Ritchie’s action packed take on the story but in MR. HOLMES, Sherlock is nothing but a shell of his former self as the wrath of time and age are slowly getting to him. Living alone after all those years of basically isolating himself from the general population because of how smart he saw himself to be, Sherlock now lives in a big-ass empty house with a shitload of bees and a housekeeper who gives more fucks about her son and the paychecks instead of the dude paying her in the first place. It’s a sad lonely existence that makes sense when you take the Sherlock Mythos seriously and give it a deep analysis, so seeing a character you knew as the best in his heyday now all withered up and shit becomes a fucking pain to watch at times.
Thanks to Ian McKellen’s masterful performance of acting twice his actual age, this version of Sherlock Holmes is someone more than just a Character Come-to-Life (albeit with more years in his age than usual) but rather, he’s a Human Being with so much visible pain and regret that you could feel the self-loathing by just looking at the dude’s hair. From his subtle body language to saying it himself, Sherlock’s emotionally broken state can be felt wherever he goes and while it’s not a new thing to add in a Deconstruction, seeing all those scars from the past in Sherlock Holmes is one hell of a tear jerking motherfucker. Sure, he still has the trademark snark and Sherlock Vision that turns the smallest piece of evidence into a fucking Encyclopedia Britanica Collection but this is a Sherlock that’s slowly losing his memory and his basic motor functions since his body saw fit to take away all the cool shit puberty and adulthood gave him. The sadder thing here is Sherlock knows his end is coming and the entire movie is mostly about him trying to make amends with the past and accept his imminent end. The important thing for him is not living longer or achieving immortality but struggling to stay alive for one more day just to remember enough of his past mistakes and finally make peace with himself.
Yes, the rest of the cast is great especially Milo Parker as Roger which is a surprise for me because normally, I hate the bloody fuck out of child actors but Parker in this case wasn’t one bit annoying but Ian McKellen really stands out here. No shit, he’d have to eat the fucking spotlight shone on him because he IS the main character of the movie after all but for a guy we’re normally used to seeing as the Wise Old Sage in any movie he’s in, Ian McKellen relishes his time at center stage and gives everyone their money’s worth and more. If it was given to some other actor, maybe their take on Sherlock would’ve been passable and serviceable but Ian McKellen here proves that he’s the perfect guy for an aged version of the detective (then again, this is the guy who was Magneto and Gandalf so what the fuck were you expecting).
Cutting from the main story of Sherlock In Retirement are actually two more stories, both of them flashbacks and effective all around. On one end, the movie cuts to glimpses of Sherlock’s last case and the one case he apparently fucked up, so much so that he exiled himself to Bee Land in the story’s present while on the other hand, his last trip abroad (and to a post-World War II Japan at that, which really hammers how much time has passed from the all too familiar industrial setting fans associate with Sherlock) where he encounters some ghosts of the past. While both are well done and add much more to understanding Sherlock’s current state of affairs, the Japanese arc could’ve really used a little more light since the motivations and actions of Mr. Umezaki are simply stated and never really given much depth. A little more details on that end of the front would’ve made the mistakes that haunt Holmes a lot more tense and painful but as it is, the Japanese arc wasn’t so bad and it did show an interesting kind of ramification Sherlock’s cases that he never gave a fuck about in his younger days.
While the movie is a Slow Burner and takes it time in building up the drama, the payoff is more than worth the price of admission because it wisely chooses to never go melodramatic or overboard and instead tells the sad story of a man moving on as humanly as possible. Unlike Robert Downey Jr.’s Roguish Adventurous Detective or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Lonely Genius, Ian McKellen’s take on the classic detective throws in a lot of humanity never before seen in the character. Nothing against those aforementioned guys (who are both good in their respective shows featuring the character) but this is by far one of the most unique and great takes on a Household Fictional Name. Even if it lacks quite a lot of the familiar elements in a Sherlock story (Watson, Baker St. itself, etc.), MR. HOLMES is a brave new take on the character that any self-respecting fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s greatest creation should check out.