ENOLA HOLMES Review
Sherlock Holmes is much like King Arthur and Robin Hood, in that Hollywood bring out a new adaptation of the character every 5 years cause they’re in the public domain and can make a quick buck. Thankful, this Holmes adaptation has little to do with the deer-stalker wearing detective, and more with his younger sister, Enola.
Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown), based on the book series by Nancy Springer, follows Enola who investigates the disappearance of her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) and flees her conservative brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and famous brother, Sherlock (Henry Cavil). Soon, Enola becomes entangled with a runaway lord who is pursued by man out to kill him.
From director, Harry Bradbeer who worked on the Phoebe Waller-Bridge comedy Fleabag, Enola Holmes is a blend of that series with Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films. It blends the fourth-wall breaking, feminist themes with the time jump deductions and action scenes to make an enjoyable but muddled family mystery with important messages for younger audiences, especially young women.
Enola herself, Bobby Brown, is finally let free of the always serious, fish-out-of-water telepath Eleven from Stranger Things and shows off an endearing charm that whisks the audience off on her investigation. She is intelligent but not pretentious about it (unlike her brothers), and sells the fourth-wall breaks with seamless looks to the camera and a cheeky wink.
The film delivers a heavy dose of feminist ideals through Enola, in a seamless and fitting manner. Unlike in say Captain Marvel where the #GirlBoss message comes across with a heavy thud, Enola’s character allows for addressing the societal sexism that still lingers today. Whether it be commenting on clothing, like a corset, as a symbol of oppression and the need to be “tamed” for a husband taught solely to raise children, Enola encounters and disrupts this status quo (she always finds a way to not wear dresses).
Enola is capable of being independent, but that does not equate to loneliness. As is constantly pointed out in the film, Enola spelled backwards is ‘Alone’ which drives Enola to isolate herself from everyone and the outside world. The film address this in a heavy-handed, but important message of how independence and isolation are not the same. The comparison is made to Sherlock and his reclusiveness as a weakness, and how Enola can improve on that by being open to friendships. In a time when the isolated become the disenfranchised, it is important to know that there are people in your corner.
Enola sets out to be left alone, but after she encounters Viscount Tewkesbury, she learns that she can open up to others and still be a free-thinking individual that is allowed friendship. Tewksbury, the runaway soon-to-be-lord who Enola aids, also shares a thematic story with Enola in how his family look down upon by him as a “forward-thinker” (read: progressive and empathetic). The issues with the film start to appear with the introduction of his case and how it is incorporated.
The film’s structuring and pacing leaves much to be desired as it crams in two mysteries together and never gives any of them time to breath. The film starts with Enola searching for her mother before that is then abruptly sidelined in favour of the mystery as to who is trying to kill Tewksbury. Both are compelling, and while the final product focuses on Tewksbury, it lessens the impact of Enola’s search for her mother. There also sub-plots that came too late in the picture, like Enola’s ‘imprisonment’ at a finishing school or the reason behind Enola’s mother’s disappearance. They are all enjoyable, but in a 2-hour movie, it’s a lot and somehow causes the film to drag.
Probably more disappointing if anything, is the lack of Henry Cavil as Sherlock. Not just because it is Henry Cavil in period-era suits, but because he brings a charm to Sherlock that has been lacking in recent depictions. Instead of being a complete dickhead, Sherlock displays genuine care for Enola as a brotherly figure she longs for. There is also wasted story potential with a Sherlock who refuses to face the change world around him that suits his white, male privilege just fine. It would have been an angle to take that would have elevated the film with a modern, critical lens on one of literature’s enduring but problematic characters with his callousness and toxic masculinity.
The villains of the film are appropriate for a Gen Z audience with Enola’s brother Mycroft posing as a constant threat with his conservative values. Mycroft, along with other characters, whinge about the ‘uninformed voter’ (while an old, elitist and powerful man sleeps in a chair) and fight to maintain the imbalanced status quo and say in round about ways to make England great again. No better villain to hate than conservative boomers.
Enola Holmes is as frenetic and charming as its lead, teen sleuth helmed by Millie Bobby Brown’s innate star-power and charisma. It is a Sherlock film for a modern audience, with a new perspective, topical themes and villains but messy structuring and a wasted Cavil as the World’s Greatest Detective.