July 27, 2015
In a nutshell: The great Sherlock Holmes finally learns the value of love and relationships before it’s too late.
That sounds like a super sappy cheesy story, and in some ways it is, but because it’s also a British historical so it ends up being grounded and poignant and in some ways very difficult. This is a rough movie to watch if you have anyone in your life who is aging, and suffering for it.
That gets me to thinking about what must be the very intentional casting of Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes. A beloved actor playing this beloved character at the end of his life — even if you don’t have a loved one going through that, it’s still really difficult watching McKellen be so old and broken — especially since we get the flashback of Holmes’ last case, with the old but vibrant wizardly McKellen we’re all used to. And in the very next scene he’s an ancient man scrawling names on the cuff of his sleeve because that’s the only way he can remember who he’s talking to. I don’t think this would have the same impact with a more obscure actor.
This kind of movie is an acting showcase — McKellen, Laura Linney as his house keeper, and Milo Parker as her son, another one of those utterly precocious British boy actors who all look just a little bit alike. (Seriously, I kept thinking, is this Freddie Highmore’s younger brother? Asa Butterfield’s? Neither, it turns out!) They’re all great. Watch this to appreciate good actors at work, if nothing else.
For all the tears, this is ultimately an uplifting story by the end of it. Maybe not a brilliant movie, but a nice one.