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1947, Sherlock Holmes returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. Now, in his remote seaside farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with only the company of his housekeeper and her young son, Roger.
The story is an intricate puzzle though never even slightly difficult to follow. But in the end, it's a testament to the process of writing as a way of coming to terms with one's past, and a celebration of the redemptive power of fiction.
The mystery subplot lacks the ingenuity of the greatest Holmes stories, but McKellen excels, switching effortlessly between the reclusive beekeeper with a faltering memory and the elegant younger detective at the height of his powers.
The proceedings are held together by McKellen's compelling performance and his deft switches between a spry 70-something and a precarious 93-year-old who looks back on his fame with amusement and regret.
The best of it, as in Condon's other movies, are the details of emotions, fleeting but just as quickly caught - true concern camouflaged by flashes of impatience, unutterable despair masquerading as simple grief.
July 17, 2015
Antagony & Ecstasy
[McKellen's] portrayal of a cantankerous, doddering old man is flawlessly done, but also somewhat generic.
The detective ducks into a movie theater and finds himself watching a (heroic) film version of himself. His response - a snicker tinged with melancholy and disdain - speaks volumes about the futility of trying to dictate how we will be remembered.