Mr. Holmes

Mr. Holmes

  • Directed byBill Condon
  • Produced byAnne Carey; Iain Canning; Emile Sherman
  • Written byJeffrey Hatcher
  • Other castIan McKellen; Laura Linney; Hiroyuki Sanada; Milo Parker
  • Music byCarter Burwell
  • Release DateFebruary 7, 2015
  • StatusAvailable
  • Runtime104 minutes
  • StudiosMiramax


In 1947, the long-retired Sherlock Holmes, aged 93, lives in a rural Sussex farmhouse with his widowed housekeeper Mrs Munro and her young son Roger. Having just returned from a trip to Hiroshima, Holmes starts to use a prickly ash plant he acquired there to try to improve his failing memory. Unhappy about Watson's fictionalisation of his last case, The Adventure of the Dove Grey Glove, he hopes to write his own account, but has trouble recalling the events. As Holmes spends time with Roger, showing him how to take care of the bees in the farmhouse's apiary, he comes to appreciate Roger's curiosity and intelligence and develops a paternal liking for him.

Over time, Roger's prodding helps Holmes remember the case (shown in flashbacks); he knows he must have failed somehow, as it resulted in his retirement from the detective business. Almost 30 years earlier, after the First World War had ended and Watson had married and left Baker Street, Thomas Kelmot approached Holmes to find out why his wife Ann had become estranged from him after suffering two miscarriages. Holmes followed Ann around London and observed her seemingly preparing to murder her husband – forging cheques in her husband's name and cashing them, confirming the details of his will, buying poison, paying a man, and checking train schedules. Holmes, however, deduced her true intentions: to have gravestones made for her and her miscarried children (the man she paid was a stonemason) and then kill herself. Confronting her, Holmes confessed he had the same feelings of loneliness and isolation, but his intellectual pursuits sufficed for him. Ann asked Holmes if they could share the burden of their loneliness together. Holmes was tempted, but instead advised her to return to her husband. She poured the poison on the ground, thanked Holmes, and departed. Holmes later learned that Ann succeeded in killing herself by stepping in front of an oncoming train. Blaming himself, he retired and fell into a deep depression. Watson briefly returns to care for him and, discovering the details of the case, rewrites the tragedy into a success.

A second series of flashbacks recounts Holmes' recent trip to Japan, where he met a supposed admirer named Tamiki Umezaki who had told him of the benefits of prickly ash. In fact, Umezaki brought Holmes to Japan in order to confront him. Years before, Umezaki's father had gone to England on business and never returned; he had sent a letter explaining that Holmes had persuaded him to remain there and forget his family in Japan. To Umezaki's disappointment, Holmes told him bluntly that his father probably just wanted a new life for himself and that he had never met the man.

In the present, Mrs Munro grows discontent with her work as Holmes becomes infirm and burdensome to look after. His closeness to her son Roger is another source of tension, as the boy is becoming dissatisfied with his family's lowly status and increasingly distant from his barely literate mother. Mrs Munro accepts a job at a hotel in Portsmouth, and plans to take Roger to work there as well. Roger is unenthused by the prospect of hotel drudgery and unwilling to leave Holmes, and says as much to his mother. Later, Holmes discovers Roger lying unconscious in the garden, covered in insect stings. As the boy is rushed to hospital, Mrs Munro accuses Holmes of caring for nothing but himself and his bees, and prepares to burn the apiary. Holmes stops her, having realised that the culprits are actually wasps; Roger had found a nearby nest and tried to flood it in order to protect the apiary, but the wasps swarmed on him instead. Holmes and Mrs Munro burn the nest together, then return to the hospital as Roger regains consciousness. As they sit in the waiting room, Holmes tells Mrs Munro that he was too fearful and selfish to open himself up to Ann Kelmot and to give her the comfort that she needed. He wants her and Roger to stay in his life, and tells her that they will inherit his estate after his death.

Back home, Holmes writes his first work of fiction: a letter to Umezaki, telling him that his father was a brave, honourable man who worked secretly and effectively for the British Empire. As Roger begins to teach his mother how to care for the bees, Holmes emulates a tradition he saw practised in Hiroshima: creating a ring of stones to serve as a place where he can recall the loved ones he has lost over the years.