I think it’s safe to say that 2015 was the Year of the Movie Franchise Revivals, a year in which we saw new installments for a number of movie franchises both old (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Spectre, Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, Terminator: Genesis, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Jurassic World) and new (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Furious 7, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pitch Perfect 2, Magic Mike XXL, Minions, Insurgent, Steve Jobs – yes, I’m counting Steve Jobs as part of a franchise, deal with it). Apparently Hollywood wasn’t listening back in 2012 and 2013 when everyone was complaining about sequel fatigue, because they doubled down last year in a big way. But one of the problems with so many big movie releases throughout the year is that a lot of great films go unnoticed.
So today I’m devoting some time to my favorite film that flew under the radar in 2015: Mr. Holmes.
Based on the 2005 book A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cummins, Mr. Holmes follows a long-since retired Sherlock Holmes (Sir Ian McKellen), as he tends to his apiary and struggles to recall the details of his last case – the case that prompted his early retirement. Frustrated by the way his former partner Watson fictionalized the story in his novel The Adventure of the Dove Grey Glove, Sherlock is determined to write his own version of the events to set the record straight before he dies. Unfortunately, his memory and body are starting to fail him, and the window of opportunity for piecing together the true story is rapidly closing. Sherlock is helped (and and at times, fought) along the way by his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, and finds a kindred spirit in the form of her young son, Roger. We also meet a number of people from Sherlock’s past through a series of flashbacks, not only to the time of the case, but also to his attempts in later years to find remedies for his deteriorating mind.
Fans of the BBC’s fantastic adaptation series, Sherlock, or Guy Ritchie’s 2009 and 2011 film adaptations might not recognize Mr. McKellen’s more reserved and contemplative Sherlock Holmes, a character that relies on subtlety rather than volatility to illustrate Sherlock’s trademark cleverness. But what this movie lacks in fistfights and classic British repartee, it makes up for with an honest portrayal of the resiliency of the human spirit that is rare to find in any film, let alone one about the famous detective. This isn’t a story about the monster hiding around the corner, it’s about the monsters that hide inside us, some of which we don’t even realize are there. It is also a reminder that it’s never too late to discover something new about yourself, to pursue your hopes and dreams, or to change yourself for the better.
I can’t think of a time I enjoyed a PG-rated movie as much as I did Mr. Holmes. Don’t get me wrong – I love Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks films, but I rarely come across a movie that is safe for kids to watch, that isn’t made for kids to watch. Twenty minutes into Mr. Holmes, however, you will have forgotten that it’s rated PG, and any kids watching with you will probably be asleep.