It is often remarked that Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed movie character in the history of cinema. One might question the validity of another movie about him and yet none have been so person as Mr. Holmes staring Ian McKellen. He plays the famed detective in the twilight of his life, memory is failing and one last case that must be solved; a case that may just be the most important of his life, enough to alter his future.
Missing the Point
Holmes is the original Spock. He is cold emotion and facts wrapped in a smoking jacket. He’s able to deduce the most minute detail about a person, observe what others cannot see and crack cases no other could. Yet, with all this knowledge and logical deduction there is something that is missing, wisdom and heart. Spock says to Valaris in Star Trek VI that logic is only the beginning of wisdom. Holmes becomes acutely aware of this in the most dreadful way. A husband of a distraught wife comes to Holmes, pleading with him to figure out what is wrong with her. Holmes quickly deduces the woman’s case, finding that she is overcome by the loss of two children from miscarriages. What she wants is to spend time with Holmes. She senses that he’s lived a solitary life and is seldom understood. She desires to just spend time with him to ease her loneliness. Holmes, unable to see past his logic to the emotion to the heart of her despair sends her home to her husband, only to find out the next day that she’s committed suicide.
Know and Loved
Holmes begins to understand the depth of his mistake and the loneliness that he’s felt his whole life. Even Watson never really knew him. Watson had chronicled the life of a character he’d created, not the man he never really knew. Watson thinks he knows Holmes, yet Holmes is jut playing the fiction that’s been created around him. He personifies the expectations fiction has placed on him, never truly able to reveal himself for fear of alienating readers, fans and in the end friends. Holmes lacks the courage to be himself as well as the safety of a true friendship with which to do so.
After the incident, Holmes retires to the country in exile. It is there that he meets his redemption in Roger, his cook’s son. Roger is smart, like Holmes he has a sharp mind and a quick wit. His father was lost in WWII and he’s grown up with only vague memories of him from his mother’s stories. He and Holmes strike an unlikely friendship over the care of bees. Together they become the person that knows the other like no one else can. We’ve all experienced it, knowing that certain someone who gets you in ways others just can’t. It feels as though you’re more complete because finally you’re understood to the core of your being. Holmes finds that missing piece of himself in the most unlikely of places and it changes him forever.
The beautiful thing is that Roger is changed as well. For him, Holmes is the father he never had. Holmes is able to stimulate Roger intellectually and spur him on to a life he’d never have if not for the way he’s known by Holmes. The film beautifully reminds us that cloistering ourselves away hurts not only ourselves but others. It’s when we risk and interact with those around us that true life happens. There are many Proverbs about the importance of friendship yet one stands out as relevant to the film, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes echo just as loudly when he says,
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
We are strongest when we are not only together, but know fully, deeply and intimately.
Mr. Holmes is the perfect antidote to superheroes, explosions and dinosaurs. None of these have been bad things, but Mr. Holmes stands above these with it’s reminders of the importance of community and truly knowing those around us and allowing ourselves to be known. Go see Mr. Holmes and revel in the quiet mystery of a film doing what the medium does at it’s best, teaching us through a good story and good characters.