'Enola Holmes' Review
October 1, 2020
Over the years we’ve heard a lot of stories about the famed detective Sherlock Holmes. In fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s deerstalker-wearing sleuth holds the record for the most portrayals of a literary character at 254. While Sherlock has dominated the mystery genre for over a century, a new part of the Holmes family is finally getting its due. The newest Netflix movie (there seems to be a new one every day) follows the adventures of the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft, named Enola Holmes.
Enola was born years after her famous brothers and never quite got to know them or her prematurely deceased father. She spent her entire childhood with only her mother for company. Together, they read books, played indoor sports, conducted science experiments, and acted out plays. Despite her name being “alone” spelled backward, Enola always had her mother by her side to show her the wonders of the world.
On her sixteenth birthday, Enola wakes up to the unpleasant surprise of her mother suddenly disappearing without a word. She calls in her brothers to help solve the mystery. They arrive with dismay about how Enola has been raised and cast her aside thinking she won’t be of much aid. Needing to prove to her brothers that she’s a capable young woman, Enola sets out to find her mother and beat them at their own game.
Like the locomotive train that contains one of the movie’s great set pieces, Enola Holmes is a well-oiled machine that runs at a rapid pace. The film carries an infectiously rambunctious energy to it, much of which comes from its star.
Already a two-time Emmy nominee for her role as Eleven in Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown is perfectly cast as our titular character. She never misses a beat with her comedic timing and carries the film almost solely on her shoulders. She also brings great skill to emotional moments.
Director Harry Bradbeer also contributes to the gleeful tone by doing what he does best. Similar to his work in the critically acclaimed Fleabag, Bradbeer has his heroine break the fourth wall and talk directly into the camera. It’s a fun tactic that never wears its welcome and allows for Brown to showcase her amazing talent.
Things take a surprisingly dark turn once Enola arrives in London as she gets tangled with hitmen and a radical plot to bomb the House of Lords. For a supposed kids' film, there is quite a bit of violence toward our younger characters. The home of Big Ben looks more drab and crowded than ever as cinematographer Giles Nuttgens beautifully contrasts the cramped and intimidating metropolis with the lush and vibrant countryside.
What does bring down Enola Holmes from time to time is its predictable central mystery. If you’re a veteran of Sherlock Holmes or the mystery genre, it won’t be too hard to figure out what will happen next. The film also tries to weave in bits of social commentary about gender and class throughout. Unfortunately, the messaging is half-baked and creates jarring breaks from the whimsical tone.
Even though Brown is clearly the star, the well-rounded supporting cast also shines in their roles. Superman himself Henry Cavill plays the iconic detective. Still with his Man of Steel physique, Cavill plays Sherlock closer to James Bond as his suave charisma brings a welcome departure from his dour performances in the DC films.
Sam Claflin, most famous for playing Finnick in The Hunger Games films, is downright dastardly as the uptight Mycroft Holmes. Complete with a twirling mustache and tophat, Claflin offers a harsh counterbalance to Brown’s exuberance.
Finally, Helena Bonham Carter is inspirational as the eccentric mother of the Holmes trio. She brings the same out-of-the-box energy one would expect from her and hits the emotional depths required.
With a star-making performance from its leading lady and a healthy dose of energy, Enola Holmes is a charming mystery for (nearly) all ages. Based on the way it ends, a sequel could be on its way in the near future; one that would be well deserved.