Are you in for a couple of good recommendations? Movies this time. The latest I've seen and liked, both released in theatres in the last months of 2015: Mr Holmes starring Sir Ian McKellen, directed by Bill Condon and based on 2005 Mitch Cullin's "A Slight Trick of the Mind", and Suffragette with a stellar cast including Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Romola Garai, Helena Bonham-Carter, Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw and Samuel West and directed by Sarah Gavron.

Ian McKellen as the retired Sherlock Holmes with little Milo Parker (Photograph: Allstar/BBC Films)
"Ian McKellen brings affection and grace to a whimsical portrait of an elderly Sherlock Holmes, struggling with his memory and his myth" (The Guardian)
‘I relate to the way Sherlock talks about death’: Ian McKellen on his film role (Photograph: Allstar/BBC Films)

Mr Holmes

After the popularity Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian detective has been given by the performances of Robert Downey Jr. - as a bohemien superhero - and the contemporary retelling of brilliant TV series like the ones starring Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC Sherlock) or Jonny Lee-Miller (CBS Elementary), you'll see Sherlock  as you've never seen him in the touching, outstanding portrayal by Sir Ian McKellen.  

Following the tradition which has been tied to the name of the protagonist, also this atypical Mr Holmes is involved in a case, in the solution of a mystery and this film can be considered a thriller. Though that is not its main feature, since this movie is also an interesting, touching portrayal of an aging human being who must find his way to the acceptance of his declining faculties and all that old age involves.  
Another typical element following the tradition is that Holmes is a flawed hero, an unhappy and solitary man. He was like that when he was younger too, when he used to be brilliantly smart and he is like that even more now that he is 93 and he is losing his memory. He is an anxious man, forced to retire and completely isolated.

Any Sherlock needs his Mr Watson, but in this movie the inseparable mate is only mentioned as the author of the popular stories and novels involving Mr Holmes as central character. Watson is just a memory, an old memory. But Sherlock has a new lively, clever partner,  whom he befriends and who sympathizes with him: his housekeeper's young son, a young boy.  They are a great team. They really understand and support  each other and the relationship between them gives the movie a lyrical /humorous tone. 

The script is intelligent and intriguing, the locations are amazing, the performances around an outstanding protagonist are all very good. The challenge for the viewer this time is not to discover whodunit before Sherlock finally solves the case, but to be involved in the detective’s emotional journey toward the acceptance of his new state and the discovery of tenderness. An emotional ride which warms a viewer’s heart more than stimulating his/her deductive skills for once. 

The cast includes Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Phil Davis and little acting prodigy Milo Parker.

You can add Mr Holmes to your DVD or Blu-ray collection right now. 
Available at amazon.com or amazon.co.UK


One of the most touching moments in the film Suffragette
Maud is a young woman, a mother and a wife,  who works as a laundress in a tough environment reminder of Dickens’s and Gaskell’s worst settings.  She’s just similar to heroines we’ve met in those pages,  similar to many women we’ve read or heard about. Her boss harasses her as well as other much younger workers. Her days are  always too short coping with so much work both at the laundry and at home. She never manages to dedicate enough time to her little George and to her husband.
It is going on an errand on her boss's account that, by chance, Maud bumps into a group of suffragettes on a mission: they are crashing down shop windows in one of London most elegant shopping streets. She starts her own journey as a very reluctant activist, but her career as a suffragette will see Maud renounce and suffer very much in the name of her cause. 

Anne-Marie Duff and Carey Mulligan in a scene of the movie

Since the woman question is one of my favourite social issues in literature and history,  I felt as if I expected more from Sarah Gravron's Suffragette. It is solidly crafted, well acted and beautifully costumed but lacking of the spark which could ignite any kind of audience, both much or little interested in the topic. Unthrilling? There, that's what I thought while watching. 
Not a bad movie. Just the opposite.  But it lacks passion or colour, if you know what I mean. Well, never mind, maybe it is just me looking for feelings in something as brainy as the tough fight of women claiming for their basic civil rights. 

Carey Mulligan and the stellar cast supporting her did their best: who can complain before so much talent? Mulligan plays a modest, reserved woman unwillingly involved in Emmeline Pankhurst’s female suffrage movement in the early 20th century and she delivers a convincing performance. So , why do I like her much more as lively Batsheba in Far From The Madding Crowd or even as silly Kitty Bennet in 2005 Pride and Prejudice?  Probably, just because of my personal taste.
Anne- Marie Duff as Violet 

Anne-Marie Duff as Violet and Helena Bonham-Carter as Edith are better carved characters in my opinion,  they are the passionate fighters in the story. They are both ready to sacrifice themselves for  the cause and their motto is: “If you want me to respect the law, make the law respectable.” Romola Garai,  as Mrs Houghton, the wife of a member of Parliament (Samuel West), or Meryl Streep,  as Mrs Pankhurst herself, don't have enough space to bright. Finally, it was awkward to see adorable Ben Whishaw - whom I appreciated so much in delicate roles like John Keats in Bright Star or his latest Danny in London Spy - playing so much against type. 
However, Suffragette portrays women worth knowing and narrates a portion of history everybody must hear about, it is good period drama and deserves to be watched.  There's even who feels it is a fiery movie, hot-blooded and riveting,  and I recommend you to read his review to compensate for my unenthusiastic musings. 
Suffragette will be released in February on DVD and Blu-ray. 
You can pre-order it at amazon.co.uk or amazon.com


Alessia Carmicino said...

I loved suffragette and the hard tone they chose for the movie...a strong, hard, fierce, even romantic in an old fashion way. Here's my review ;) http://firstimpressions86.blogspot.com/2015/12/suffragette.html

dstoutholcomb said...

I hope to borrow them from the library.