When I think of a summer movie, I generally think of a movie that will involve either slapstick comedy or lots of explosions…or maybe a little of both. I did enjoy Pixels, Adam Sandler’s most recent contribution to sophomoric comedy, but I also found myself drawn to a film that has almost been hidden among the summer releases: Mr. Holmes. This film, starring two of my favorite actors: Ian McKellen and Laura Linney takes place soon after the end of WWII and gives us a ninety something, retired Sherlock Holmes, content to live in the country and tend to his bees. Linney plays the part of his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro who is a war widow with a young son, Roger (played by Milo Parker).
Roger is drawn to Mr. Holmes and the two become friends. There is a natural feel to the interaction between McKellen and Parker. Their relationship grows organically and is pollinated by Roger’s fascination with both Holmes’ previous career and his bees.
The main plot of this film is set against the framework of a series of events that causes Holmes to re-examine his final case, one that he had not solved. It involves a young couple and the husband’s concern over the mental state of his wife. In his old age, Holmes has a tendency to forget things, names of those he is close to as well as the facts of this case. As a sort of mental calisthenics, he forces himself to find some closure in this case. He is prodded along by Roger, who pushes Holmes to fill in the gaps in his memory.
Mr. Holmes is not your typical summer movie. The humor is subtle; there are no robots and no explosions. But it is a beautiful movie, if not
slower-paced than most people are used to seeing. It is a movie that has several messages that are relevant to Catholic Social Teaching; there is an overarching theme of respect for the elderly. Roger and Mrs. Munro always treat Holmes with the utmost respect and dignity. There is a respect for the living and the dead, and the conviction that those who have died before us (even in the womb) are still very much with us and part of our lives. There is also a nice sense of reconciliation, through a side story and a long forgotten person in Holmes’ life. Also, right on the heels of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si”, there is a strong sense of protecting the environment through Holmes’ love of beekeeping. In a nice moment towards the end, Holmes does something to ensure his housekeeper and her son (a widow and orphan in the biblical sense) always have a place to live.
So, yes, Mr. Holmes may not be your average summer movie, but it is a movie that is beautifully shot, acted and directed. The film is subtle in its message and its performances are like a cool ocean breeze on a hot summer day.