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A Review of Mr. Holmes

Updated on October 17, 2015

Mr. Holmes is kind of a sequel to all the Sherlock Holmes movies and television shows and knock offs (House, anybody?) Mr. Holmes, played by Sir Ian McKellen, is quite elderly now and becoming Senile. He’s living in the country under the care of a housekeeper who doesn’t like him (no way!) and her son. The show starts out with Mr. Holmes returning home from a trip. First he makes a trip to a set of honey bee hives, where he finds several dead bees, and then he returns to his house. Of course, he’s greeted by his housekeeper, played by Laura Linney, and he makes socially rude comments about her cooking and then heads up into his study. On the way up he stops to ‘notice’ things in the way that Sherlock Holmes notices things.

Afterwards he goes outside and asks Roger, the housekeepers son, why he was in his study. You learn through their brief conversation that Roger, played by Milo Parker, has been snooping and found the beginning of a story that Mr. Holmes is trying to write so as to correct the misrepresentation of that story as written by Dr. Watson. Unfortunately, you learn that Mr. Holmes memory is going and he can’t recall how the story went, only that how Mr. Watson wrote the story is wrong. Throughout the movie you will see Mr. Holmes going back and writing what happened as he remembers it. At this point all he remembers is that he was approached by a young man who wanted help with his wife. Mr. Holmes informs Roger that most young men come to him with problems with their wives.

Shortly after Mr. Holmes and Rogers conversation Mr. Holmes gets a visit from his doctor who wants him to move closer to town because of his memory problems; Mr. Holmes, of course, refuses because otherwise their would be no story to tell. The doctor tells Mr. Holmes to start making a mark in his diary for every time he can’t remember something. Shortly after he heads back toward the bees, but this time Roger peeks over the shrubs and begins to ask questions. Mr. Holmes eventually suits him up and begins to teach him about bees and bee care.


Through the course of the movie you see Mr. Holmes and Roger begin to develop a almost grandfather/grandson type relationship. You also learn that Rogers father died in the war, and that Roger doesn’t remember him. And, you learn that Mrs. Munro, Rogers mother, doesn’t like Mr. Holmes and is actively seeking a different job – more he’s nervous about the relationship developing between her son and Mr. Holmes. You also see that Roger needs a male influence as he’s routinely rude to his mother. Just as importantly, plot line wise, you begin to learn about the story that Mr. Holmes is trying to remember and you learn about where he was.

Mr. Holmes was in Japan looking for something to help him with his memory problems. He is met by a young man named Tamiki Umezaki, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, who says he’s a huge fan of Mr. Holmes, but you find out later resents Mr. Holmes. They go looking for the plant that is supposed to be of help, but in truth probably doesn’t help at all as it’s in the zone that was destroyed when America dropped the bomb on Japan. Ironically, it’s probably loaded with radiation and making Mr. Holmes sicker. You also learn that this young mans father abandoned he and his mother, and claimed that he was told to do so by the great Sherlock Holmes. Mr. Holmes tells the young man he never met his father and that his father was a coward making up excuses for abandoning his child.

Mr. Holmes becomes a quite relatable person in this movie. You see him struggle with his memory and you learn that, while he can’t remember what happened with his last case, he does know that it ended badly. Badly enough that he had exiled himself to the countryside as penance. Eventually, you learn that the wife, Ann, of the young man had lost two babies – preterm - and had been told not to try for any more. You learn that her husband has refused to allow her to put gravestones up for them, as ‘they weren’t real children’. And finally, you learn that she’s behaving in a way that’s making him suspicious. Mr. Holmes takes the case and begins to follow her. He follows her when Ann, played by Hattie Morahan, buys poison, he follows her when she meets a strange man off the train and gives him a large envelope of money. He eventually finds her sitting and looking at flowers and sits to visit with her. For awhile he plays that he doesn’t know her, and she plays she doesn’t, but it comes out that she found his card in her husbands clothes and knows who he is. And of course, he know she knows, as she waited an extremely long time window shopping at a taxidermy shop so that he could follow her. He know that she is, in fact, planning on committing suicide and that the money was money for gravestones for her children. He talks to her, and admits that he’s lonely, too. Ann, at this point, asks him if they could be lonely together and he refuses, telling her to go home to her husband. She smiles, and pours out the poison, but that evening walks in front of a train on purpose. Mr. Holmes can’t forgive himself, and has the self realization that the reason he turned her down was cowardice. Mr. Holmes exiles himself to the country, and Mr. Watson rewrites the story in a way that has a happy ending.

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At this point, the story takes a bit of turn. As mentioned before, Mr. Holmes and Roger have developed a friendship. Mr. Holmes has a fall and so Roger takes over the care of Mr. Holmes bees. Throughout the movie you learn that the bees are dying at a very fast rate and so Roger keeps bringing Mr. Holmes dead bees to see if they can figure out what’s wrong. And then one day Mr. Holmes goes looking for Roger and finds him, near the bees, unconscious, and blue. He runs as fast as he can into the house and calls an ambulance, but doesn’t tell Rogers mom. However, Mrs. Monro has a mothers instincts and follows him out to Roger. Roger is taken to the hospital and Mr. Holmes is left at home. A police office comes out to check on Mr. Holmes and take his statement, and you can see that Mr. Holmes is blaming himself as he thought Roger wasn’t allergic to bees (Roger had been stung before). Mr. Holmes dozes off in his chair, and then wakes up and, in a somewhat lucid moment, realizes that it couldn’t have been bees that stung Roger as their were no stingers and honey bees always leave their stingers. He goes out to see if he can figure out what got Roger and finds Mrs. Munro getting ready to set the honey bee hive on fire. He pleads with her not to and they argue, with her claiming that he doesn’t care about her son and he only loves the bees. Mr. Holmes cries and tells her he loves Roger, too. It’s only through his evident grief that she is willing to listen to why she shouldn’t kill the bees. He explains about the stingers and they follow Rogers footsteps to where he’d found a wasps nest. Wasps are the natural enemy of the honeybee and Roger had found them and tries to kill them by pouring water over their nest cause them to swarm him and sting him nearly to death. Luckily, because of Mr. Holmes knowledge, Roger had been given adrenaline and he ends up surviving.

It’s while they’re sitting at the hospital that Mr. Holmes tells Mrs. Munro that he intends to leave the house to her and Roger and asks her not to leave for another job. You later see him, returning after the good news about Roger comes, at home writing a letter to the young Japanese man he’d met earlier in the movie. Mr. Holmes makes up a story about the young mans father, claiming he forgot, telling him that his father had died in service to the English crown and that he’d been an excellent agent with much honor.

Overall, I don’t know if I liked this movie that much. The plot line was excellent, and I liked the overall story, but the movie was very disjointed and, at point, flat out boring. The previews made it look like it’d be a funny movie, but there were very few funny parts. That said, the moral of this story – that love and personal relationships are important made it almost worth it. I wouldn’t have minded seeing this from the comfort of my home – I just don’t know if I felt it was worth the cost of admission. There are quite a few really touching scenes and one scene where you see Mr. Holmes using his influence with Roger to encourage him to be polite and kind to his mother. The character growth in this movie was excellent – I really enjoyed that part. And it was nice to see the grouchy, rude Sherlock Holmes turn into the grouchy, rude, KIND and GENTLE Mr. Holmes.


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