I always pounce at the opportunity to write about a film that I’ve seen, because it is a desire which is, oddly, fairly infrequent. Sometimes, a film captivates me in such a manner that I want to write a blog post about it; most of the time, however, a film prompts little feeling at all. Even if I enjoy it, and it is generally regarded as ‘good’ (Spotlight, Jackie, Selma, The Witch and 1984 come to mind, after a glance at my 2017 Film List), there needs to be a sufficient mixture of mysterious elements in order to provoke a strong enough emotional response which necessitates talking about it. Typically, it is the average-to-bad films which encourage thought. Perhaps that says something about me.
As a filmmaker, this is quite sad. In an ideal world, I would find something interesting in every film that I see, and I would want to talk about them all, but the reality is that not every film made can capture and appeal to one’s personal tastes and interests. Woe, the world does not revolve around me.
So, I wanna talk a little bit about Mr. Holmes!
I wasn’t gonna not love Mr. Holmes. Firstly, Ian McKellen plays the lead, and it is impossible for that man to turn in a dull performance. Secondly, I will never find Sherlock Holmes uninteresting. Thirdly, Ian McKellen playing Sherlock Holmes is such a cognitively pleasing decision that I was always going to enjoy it. Fourthly, it’s a classic British costume drama, which are always imbued with enough charm to delight me – even if they happen to be bad films, or needlessly romanticise the past, or both.
Principally, it deals with the most profound issue which humanity comes to terms with: our life. What will we make of it? How will we spend our time? Will we have regrets when we grow old? A human life can be boiled down to a slow countdown; a ticking clock with a finite destination. Presently, at least, we do not have the power to extend our life beyond its natural means, thus we are stuck with what we’ve got. For a man such as Sherlock Holmes, this is a recondite prospect. What will the end of life do to the world’s greatest detective? McKellen plays a Holmes embedded in reflection and melancholy, a man who is rattled by his declining intellect – once his greatest asset – yet one who is nonetheless kind and emotional. For Mr. Holmes, the end of his life prompts a realisation of how many regrets he holds, and how truly alone he is in the world.
Perhaps that is what made it such an evocative film for me. Holmes does not regret the detective work which brought him such success, and he is immensely proud of his life’s work, yet he nonetheless regrets his inability to form true emotional connections; at one point he even remarks that John Watson, his closest friend, “never really knew me at all,” and Watson passes away without a final goodbye. Mr. Holmes serves as a reminder that no matter how hard we try, and no matter how successful and fulfilling a life we lead, it will nonetheless conclude with regrets. And there is nothing we can do about that.
The title of this post is a quote from the film, spoken by Sherlock Holmes himself, and it rings true through the film’s themes, all the way to each of our real lives. In the grand scheme of things, our only goal is to depart this world feeling as if our life has come to a satisfying conclusion.