Hive Mind

We're in that strange part of the movie calendar that lies between the summer blockbusters and the awards-baiting prestige films. Anything goes in September, so it's fitting that the movie I just saw is an odd little combination of indie drama, a couple of well-regarded thespians, and a character who's lately been popping up relentlessly.

That movie is Mr. Holmes, starring Ian McKellen and Laura Linney, and directed by Bill Condon. McKellen plays Sherlock Holmes, but far from the ass-kicker of the Guy Ritchie movies I've studiously avoided, or the Holmes at the height of his career in the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch, this Holmes is in his decline. He retires to a remote cottage in the country, and spends his days tending the beehives in his garden. His only company is that of his housekeeper (Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker).

Watching characters who are slowly losing their mental faculties is always a sad journey, but especially so when the character in question is one we're so used to being the sharpest person in the room. Holmes experiments with exotic substances believed to help memory lapses, and in the process, he recounts one of his old cases to Roger, who becomes fascinated with the old man. From there, the movie is split pretty evenly between those three stories (the old case, Holmes' ailments, and the mystery of the dying bees out in the garden).

Mr. Holmes is almost entirely carried by its cast. It's no surprise that McKellen and Linney ace their roles, but Milo Parker, who is given perhaps the toughest job as a kid that could easily come off as obnoxious, is one of the better child actors I've seen in a long time. That said, the pacing of this movie is extremely slow, and the script isn't particularly noteworthy. None of the three plotlines I mention above goes anywhere particularly interesting.

With a lesser cast, this movie would have been eye-rollingly dull, but thanks to its impressive performances, it's able to elevate itself to something worthwhile. I can't recommend it with a full and open heart, but there are definitely worse ways to spend a rainy evening.

Mr. Holmes: B-


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