Principal photography began on 5 July 2014, in London. The film was screened out of competition at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival and had its premiere on 7 February 2015.
The film was released in British cinemas on 19 June 2015, and in the United States on 17 July 2015.
In 1947, the long-retired Sherlock Holmes, aged 93, lives in a remote Sussex farmhouse with his widowed housekeeper Mrs Munro and her young son Roger. Having just returned from a trip to Hiroshima, he starts to use jelly made from the 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 herself and her miscarried children (the man she paid was a stonemason) and then commit suicide with the poison. Confronting her, he 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 she killed herself by stepping in front of an oncoming train. Blaming himself, he retires and falls 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 had a hidden motive for meeting Holmes. Years before, Umezaki's anglophile father had traveled to England. In a letter, the father wrote that he had been advised by the brilliant Holmes to remain in England permanently, abandoning his wife and son. Holmes bluntly told Umezaki that his father simply wanted a new life for himself and that Holmes had never met him. Umezaki was crushed.
In the present, Mrs Munro gradually becomes dissatisfied with her work, and Holmes's overall health deteriorates and he spends more time with her son. After he becomes unconscious from an experiment with the prickly ash, he requires more physical care. She accepts a job at a hotel in Portsmouth, planning to take Roger to work there as well. Roger does not want to go. He is unhappy with his barely literate mother and his family's working-class status, and tension develops between mother and son.
Holmes and Mrs Munro later discover Roger lying unconscious near the house, a victim of multiple stings, and he is rushed to a hospital. Distraught, Mrs Munro tries to burn down the apiary, blaming Holmes for caring only about himself and his bees. Holmes stops her, having realised that Roger had been stung by wasps; Roger found their nest and tried to drown them to protect the bees, but they swarmed on him instead. Holmes and Mrs Munro burn down the wasp nest together, and Roger regains consciousness. Holmes tells Mrs Munro how he was too fearful to open himself to act as a caring person with Ann Kelmot, and that he wants Mrs. Munro and Roger to stay in his life, leaving them his house and grounds after his death.
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 being practiced 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.Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes
Laura Linney as Mrs Munro
Milo Parker as Roger Munro
Hiroyuki Sanada as Tamiki Umezaki
Hattie Morahan as Ann Kelmot
Patrick Kennedy as Thomas Kelmot
Roger Allam as Dr. Barrie
Phil Davis as Inspector Gilbert
Frances de la Tour as Madame Schirmer
Colin Starkey as Dr. John Watson
Nicholas Rowe as "Matinee Sherlock"
Frances Barber as "Matinee Madame Schirmer"
John Sessions as Mycroft Holmes
Sarah Crowden as Mrs. Hudson
Hermione Corfield as Matinee 'Ann Kelmot'
On 5 September 2013 it was announced that Mitch Cullin's 2005 book A Slight Trick of the Mind would be adapted into a film, with Ian McKellen as a long-retired Sherlock Holmes. Bill Condon was set to direct Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of the novel. AI-Film was on board to finance and co-produce the film, Anne Carey was set to produce through her Archer Gray Productions, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman would produce through See-Saw Films, and BBC Films would also co-finance the film. FilmNation Entertainment was set to handle the international sales for the film.
On 7 May 2014, Laura Linney and Hattie Morahan were added to the cast, with Linney set to play Mrs Munro, the housekeeper to Holmes. On 9 July Hiroyuki Sanada was added to the cast to play Matsuda Umezaki, a prickly ash plant enthusiast whom Holmes visits in Japan. On 10 July, more cast were revealed, including Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Phil Davis, Frances de la Tour, with Milo Parker to play Mrs Munro's son. On 22 August it was revealed that Nicholas Rowe, who portrayed Holmes in the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes, would have a cameo role in the film. He portrays Holmes in a sequence spoofing the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films. On 3 September 2014, Miramax acquired the United States distribution rights to the film.
Principal photography began on 5 July 2014 in the United Kingdom. On 9 July, McKellen tweeted a picture of himself as Sherlock Holmes in the film. The film was set for a seven-week shoot on location in London and on the south coast of England. The production also filmed at The Historic Dockyard Chatham which doubled as streets in Japan.
Carter Burwell composed the music for the film. The soundtrack was released on 28 August 2015.
The film was released in British cinemas on 19 June 2015, and in the United States on 17 July 2015 and had its premiere on 7 February 2015. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 10 November 2015.
Mr. Holmes has received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 87%, based on 142 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Mr. Holmes focuses on the man behind the mysteries, and while it may lack Baker Street thrills, it more than compensates with tenderly wrought, well-acted drama". On Metacritic the film has a score of 67 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". IGN awarded it a score of 7.7 out of 10, saying "Gentle, moving, diverting drama that's perfect Sunday afternoon fare".