I can’t say I’ve made the leap back to Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated detective. My recent forays into the literary detective genre have been based on a comparative interest in the differences between American writers and noted European authors, in particular the legion of Scandinavian crime beat writers. The thing is, every detective writer out there is trying to escape the long shadow of Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes. Which is why Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes feels like a blessing and a curse. Based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, the film takes and runs with Doyle’s signature character as a long-retired figure (Ian McKellen), living in 1947 on a remote farmhouse with his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker). Roger is a precocious boy with the kind of sensitive and inquisitive mind that keeps Holmes on his toes as he revisits notes on a final case that has flummoxed him for decades.
He is also haunted, to a certain degree, by the impression of him that exists in the world, thanks to the series of books written by Watson (Colin Starkey). Holmes sees the notes and the resolution of this nagging mystery as his effort to write his own story at long last. Ever the solid craftsman, Condon (Gods and Monsters) honors Holmes with a film that could easily become the default representation of the character, which might prevent casual viewers/readers from delving into the rich literary history. (PG) Grade: B+