I love comeback films. Films were the retired cop takes to the street for one last criminal take down; where the over the hill cowboy straps his boots on for one last score; where the aging boxer steps back into the ring for one last go at the title. It's a great genre that inspires us all to keep going, to milk life until the last petals of our lives have wilted and fallen off the stem. Sadly Mr. Holmes doesn't really fit that genre, though it was marketed as if it would. Mr. Holmes is more of a character drama that moves as slow as its protagonist. It's a bit of a long ride, but there is fun to be had on it.
Mr. Holmes is a film about the elderly Sherlock Holmes. All the other beloved characters from the Holmes mythos are now dead (Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and Inspector Lestrade, are all long gone). Holmes has retired to a sleepy little English town where he's tried to forget about a case he seemingly couldn't solve. Now the world's once most brilliant detective is riddled with alzheimer's, and can't even remember how his last case turned out, so he's writing it down in an attempt to remember. He befriends his new housekeeper's son, and shares the story of his last case with him as he slowly remembers it.
Mr. Holmes is a slow burn movie. It takes its time with everything, and the payoff (the answer to the mystery) isn't as satisfying as you'd like it to be, but Ian Mckellen's portrayal of an elderly Holmes is strong, and the boy he befriends is also quite good. The main problem the movie has is that most of the time it simply feels too depressing. Holmes has no one left, and no where to go but seemingly into the ground. All that's keeping him going is the idea that maybe he'll remember the ending to his last case before he dies, and that really isn't a big enough driving force to keep the moving going. It does end on a satisfying note, and the film's performances and occasional wit outweigh the often depressing plot line.