Late in life, Sherlock Holmes suffers from the onset of Alzheimer’s. He fumbles and forgets. It is uncomfortable to watch the greatest detective in history in such a sorry state.
But that may be the point. You are supposed to be uncomfortable. The discomfort would be tolerable if a decent plot came along for the ride. Instead, we’re stuck watching Ian McKellan — who is one of the great actors of his generation — muddle through the best he can.
The mystery is Holmes trying to remember what happened to a woman from his past. He writes it down in bits and pieces and hits a wall of memory fog. A little later, a bit more is written, and on it drags.
The film’s highpoint is supposed to be Holmes teaching the young son of his housekeeper how to be a detective. It, too, falls flat, though not as flat as the mystery Holmes is trying to solve.
Unfortunately, why is no mystery.