** SPOILERS **
I chose exile for my punishment, but what was it for?
I must have done something terribly wrong.
And I've no evidence of what it was.
Only pain, guilt... Useless, worthless feelings!
There can be no greater torment for the greatest deductive mind of all time than the diminishing of his faculties. Bill Condon's Mr. Holmes, based on the novel "A Slight Trick of the Mind," brings us Sherlock Holmes in the twilight of his years. Magnificently portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen, this Sherlock Holmes never perished at Reichenbach Falls in a battle against Professor Moriarty. Aged 93 in 1947, McKellen's Mr. Holmes lives in self-chosen "exile" in a remote Sussex farmhouse, having long since outlived all of his contemporaries, including his brother Mycroft and his loyal friend Dr. John Watson. Mr. Holmes battles dementia; he keeps bees on his property hoping the royal jelly might cure his affliction and when the film begins, he has just returned from Japan with hopes the jelly from the prickly ash plant he acquired might improve his failing memory. Worst of all, Mr. Holmes cannot remember the details of his last case, involving a man who came to him about his ailing wife, and what Holmes' involvement was in her death.
Mr. Holmes finds little comfort from his housekeeper, played by Laura Linney, who resents his burgeoning friendship with her bright, inquisitive son Roger, played by Milo Parker. Roger admires Holmes, and helpfully prods his memory with a barrage of questions. Some of the finest moments of Mr. Holmes involve Roger sitting under Holmes' learning tree, absorbing his still-formidable brilliance, be it in deducing who and where a person has been or how to care for bees and to fear their enemies, wasps. Mr. Holmes also flashes back to Holmes' sojourn in Japan, meeting another supposed fan of his, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, who wants answers to the disappearance of his father in England decades earlier. McKellen powerfully invokes this ancient Sherlock's pathos; his chagrin at the image of the fabled fictionalized hero Dr. Watson based on him, his succumbing to the physical realities of age, and a lifetime of deeply held loneliness and regret. Even stripped of his accoutrements, his famous sidekick, and his deerstalker cap, McKellen's Mr. Holmes remains proud, defiant, brilliant, and is perhaps the most human Sherlock of all.