There are spoilers in this review. Duh.

It took me awhile to get around to reviewing this, and I think that’s more a reflection on the movie than anything else. Regrettably I get behind on these things because I write for my own fun, but I couldn’t really think of what to say about the movie either. It was okay? I can’t really find much fault in it. It was good acting. Decent script. It was a cool concept see Sherlock Holmes as an old man. But was it interesting? Ehhhhhhhh. Keep in mind that I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. I’ve seen everything possible, and read all of the books, and also those silly fanfiction-esque books that people put out about Sherlock Holmes. There’s this horror/supernatural version that I generally find fun. I don’t really think the stories need to be high energy and full of explosions like the Ritchie films, although I enjoy the performances in those too. There was only one mystery in this one, and it was one I figured out quickly, and that’s always disappointing when you’re excited to try and get the answer as the story goes. Well, more on that later.

Sherlock Holmes is now a grumpy older man played by the wonderful Ian McKellen. His mind has degraded over time, and he’s fighting off the ravages against his intelligence with a dangerous type of medication he got from Japan. In true Sherlock form, he doesn’t really have any long term friends because he’s eccentric but ultimately unfriendly to others. He’s always been about the puzzle, not about the humanity. He’s an endearing person because you love his mind, and it makes sense that now his mind is going, that is the worst possible thing for him. He has moved to a cottage he owns where he employs Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) as his housekeeper/nanny of sorts. Her son Roger (Milo Parker ) stays with him, and Sherlock is pleased by the boy’s sharp intelligence and curiosity. The two bond, and Roger gets frustrated by his mother’s insistence on leaving for a better job, and feeling like he’s going to be stuck in the lower class life she’s set for them. Sherlock peacefully takes care of his bees, but he is surprised at their slow death, uncertain what is killing them. He is also haunted by the last case he took before he retired. And to a lesser degree, a story from Japan.


The last case he took was about a woman named Ann (Hattie Morahan) who showed clear signs of deep depression. She worried her husband, who hired Holmes, by spending a lot of money on a wise woman and taking money out of the bank from her husband. She appeared to be setting things in motion to kill him and inherit the money, but it was pretty clear from the beginning what she truly planned. After the miscarriage of her two children and her general depression about life, she instead was going to use the money for headstones for herself and her two children. Because she planned on committing suicide. In a frank discussion with Sherlock, she expressed her loneliness and isolation, and he confessed he felt the same way a lot of the time. She tried to persuade him to keep her company, but he refused. She poured out the poison she bought, so he let her leave, but she committed suicide by jumping in front of a train later on. Watson rewrote this story with a different ending, which always offended Holmes, but he learned that in a way it was a display of kindness, to make things simpler and less traumatic for his partner. This ties in with a history from the man who invited him to Japan, Umezaki (Hiroyuki Sanada). He brought Holmes there, but he reveals he’s not a fan, instead he’s angry at Holmes because his father abandoned the family to stay in England. Holmes offered him a logical reason to stay, thinking only of the rationality and not of the pain the family would suffer. With that in mind, he shows a bit of kindness toward Umezaki and lies for the first time, saying his father was a secret agent and that’s why he stayed away.

Also Roger almost dies by numerous bee stings, and of course Sherlock blames himself, and so does Mrs. Munro. She wants to destroy the bees, but he puts it together that it isn’t the bees, it was the wasp stings. This makes sense because Roger didn’t really show an allergy to bees before, but wasps swarmed and overwhelmed the boy. Personally, as heartless as this sounds, I think the story would’ve been stronger if he had died. Instead he gets better. Yes it taught Sherlock a lesson, to be more present in his life, and to take more care with the people around him. But the bitterness of losing the boy would have fit in better with the overall story arc. Ehhhh. I’m okay with how it is, I just thought it would have been stronger without that happy little product. In the end, Sherlock has made the two of them his heirs, and they leave somewhat peacefully together. It’s a decent story, but I don’t know that I’d call it particularly interesting. I like the concept of Sherlock as an old man, starting to lose his great genius, and how horrible that would be for a man like him. I almost wished there was a person in the movie who could confront him more directly, to draw out his anger and grief, and maybe I just missed Watson. It’s hard to have a Sherlock without a Watson there to counteract him. While all the performances were solid, I came out of it with a resounding “meh” and haven’t really thought about it since. I do like the decision for him to deceive and learn that deceit for kindness is not a bad thing. That has always been a major Sherlock staple, telling the truth brutally no matter what. I’d give the movie a solid B, especially for the performances, but I don’t think I’d buy it or watch it again. ¬†Sorry Sir Ian!


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