(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for an index poem made up of unconnected snippets of words. Since this experimental idea typically results in a “poem” that defies interpretation, I chose a more traditional form instead.)
When I am in the twilight of my years,
And memories are brittle as each bone,
I wonder if my life will be worth tears
Or only a gravestone.
By then, I will have little need to fret,
But ere my mortal body’s fully worn,
I feel I’ll leave this world with less regret
If someone’s left to mourn.
I could go through this life with blinded eye
Toward anyone whose worth I overlook,
But fools are those who do not verify
The cover of a book.
I could live life content in solitude,
With intellect my only confidante,
But when my mind and body come unglued,
A friend is all I’ll want.
MPAA rating: PG
With so many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories, including Young Sherlock Holmes, it was only a matter of time before a film focused on the detective in retirement, as in last year’s Mr. Holmes (which might well have been titled Old Sherlock Holmes). Ian McKellen fills the title role superbly, though he emphasizes the 93-year-old Holmes’s fragility by showing his own obvious age. (He’s currently 76.) The understated but tremendous acting also extends to Laura Linney and Milo Parker, who play the mother and son who care for the aging Holmes. I should also note (Lost alert!) that Hiroyuki Sanada, who portrayed Dogen in Lost’s final season, plays Mr. Umezaki, an embittered reader who invites Holmes to Japan in search of a plant to aid his failing memory.
Despite the illustrious thespianism on display, the pacing of this unhurried mystery is positively glacial, making it a film to be best watched and appreciated when fully awake. Sherlock Holmes productions are known for foreshadowing and weaving together varied threads to the mystery, and though elements like Holmes’s beekeeping habits and his final case involving a glass armonica and a glove don’t necessarily influence each other, Holmes himself is the touchstone of these several aspects. His current retirement and friendship with young Roger (Parker) serve as a foundation from which Holmes struggles to remember his guilt-ridden past.
One key ingredient of Holmes’s character that so many adaptations have incorporated is his unequivocal bluntness, which often borders on insulting. While not obvious, the personal toll of this habit is finally detailed here. The failure of Holmes’s final case is owed to his self-satisfied assertion of the facts without fully understanding the emotions behind them, and his admirer Roger seems to follow in his footsteps in correcting and humiliating his mother with impertinent disregard for her feelings. So many Sherlock Holmeses, from Benedict Cumberbatch to Robert Downey, Jr., never seem to fully grasp their insensitivity, and seeing an older Holmes express his regret at alienating others is a believable development for the character.
Although Mr. Holmes may threaten one’s consciousness, its muted, handsomely mounted drama is a somber but fulfilling conclusion to the famed detective’s career. It’s also a sterling example of an aging actor proving he’s still got it.
Best line: (Holmes) “And thus concludes the true story of a woman who died before her time, and a man who, until recently, was certain he had outlived his.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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