Mr. Holmes is based on the book A Slight Trick of the Mind, where we catch up with Sherlock Holmes long into his retirement. I love the idea visiting a beloved fictional character in this kind of situation, and it's fun to see that realized. I can't think of too many examples of it in film, and I'm kind of surprised it isn't done more. Anyway, Holmes lives in a remote house with his housekeeper and her young son. The story mainly revolves around Holmes trying to document the final case that made him retire.
Holmes' memory is failing though, making this difficult, and the film does an effective job of flashing back to his younger self as things jog his memory. It was amazing to see McKellen play both versions of Holmes. One scene you'll see a feeble old man struggling with senility, then contrasted with his younger self at the height of his skills. I'm sure there was some creative makeup, or even some digital de-aging, in play, but it was all very convincing. If anything it serves as a reminder of how great of an actor Ian McKellen is. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a few nominations for Mr. Holmes. He's that good.
In the present time there's also a touching relationship as Holmes forms a bond with his maid's son. The son, played by Milo Parker, was very good and I believe this might be his first role. Without their relationship, I don't think I would have enjoyed this as much as I did.
As mentioned earlier, Mr. Holmes is a little slowly paced, and I couldn't help getting a little squirmy towards the end. That's the kind of story this is though. This isn't an action film or tightly wound mystery. Don't expect to see Robert Downey Jr. running around with Jude Law.
I'm glad Bill Condon is making films like Mr. Holmes again, if only to help me forget he was ever involved in the Twilight series. I can only imagine they must have drove a truckload of cash to his house to get him to do Twilight in the first place.
Overall, Mr. Holmes is wonderfully acted and an interesting story, but it's not exactly something you need to rush out and see in the theater if it's not playing around you. It is worth a matinee if it is though. It's a solid rental otherwise.
4 (out of 5) Death Stars