In Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle created such an entrancing character that the scope for exploring his potential and discussing his adventures is almost endless. Less than a fortnight ago, at Bouchercon, I found myself chatting about him with Leslie Klinger, a leading American Sherlockian, whose annotated editions of the stories are quite superb. Over the years, we've had all kinds of takes on Sherlock, and the 2014 film Mr Holmes presents him as a twinkly old buffer whose mind is starting to fade, but who has the chance to delve back into the past as well as coping with a challenge of the present.
The film is based on a book published in 2005 by American author Mitch Cullen called A Slight Trick of the Mind, which I haven't read. It's a very well-made film, and the cast includes several excellent actors in relatively small parts. So we have Roger Allam (Morse's dad in Endeavour) as Holmes' doctor, Phil Davis (playing a cop, not for the first time,but in a rather less menacing way than usual) and Frances de la Tour (who in my mind will always be Miss Jones in that very funny of-its-time sitcom Rising Damp). And the eternally versatile John Sessions plays Mycroft...
There are three main plot strands. One concerns Holmes' last case,in which he is consulted by a husband concerned about his wife. There's another set in Japan. And third and most important, we see Holmes in his dotage, still keeping bees, and bonding with the likeable son of his housekeeper. There's some poignancy in the story, but its impact is lessened by the fact the story moves along rather slowly, and I did find that my attention wandered.
Holmes is played by Ian McKellen with genial aplomb, but I felt that an actor such as John Hurt would have given an edgier performance. As it is, the film meanders elegantly along without, for me, ever becoming compelling.. It's unusual enough to be worth watching, but I'm afraid it won't be featuring on my list of the best twenty Sherlock Holmes films .