I am quite a fan of the talented Millie Bobby Brown. The young actress shows she has the acting chops to go toe to toe with demogorgons and Godzilla. When I first saw her on Intruders, I thought, “Wow that kid’s pretty good.” But, like most child actors, you never know if you’ll see them in anything else. I’m glad Ms. Brown has found her way onto our screens and is making herself something of a household name. Through Stranger Things we’ve seen her grow up, but as the lead in Legendary Pictures’ Enola Holmes, she truly shines.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is still a favorite for me. Sherlock’s eye for detail in those stories have been a helpful teacher to me in deciphering what types of clues to look for for film reviews. I hope that a new series like this can embolden a new audience equally thirsting for those types of adventures. Based on the book series, Enola Holmes is the first of six adventures in the series. Enola’s first adventure, The Case of the Missing Marquess, looks to begin a Netflix franchise.
Now, where to begin…Enola Holmes begins with Enola telling the audience all about her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter). While riding a bike through a field, the audience glimpses Enola’s memories. Feasting upon vignettes of The Holmes’ matriarch as a smart, breezy woman savoring life. They also glean Enola’s upbringing as specifically unique to time period, equally breezy and free-spirited. Enola’s bike halts, throwing her off. Getting up dirty, she finally reveals to the audience that her mother has abruptly gone missing.
Arriving at a train station and generally welcoming, Enola’s two older brothers dismiss her for a beggar. Expecting a regal lady to greet them, the two share a look of confusion while gazing upon Enola. As they’ve come to aid Enola and find their mother, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) appear in a state of shock seeing Enola’s dirty clothing and unladylike mannerisms. Immediately, Mycroft seeks to put her into a finishing school to fit the mold of women of the times.
Sherlock finds no evidence suggesting Eudoria fell victim to foul play, telling Enola it appears their mother simply left home. Enola emotionally reacts to his findings. Sherlock telling her ”to look for what’s there rather than what isn’t.” Unable to sleep, Enola begins sifting through her mother’s things, finding a note meant for her and the subsequent money she left as well.
The adventure starts as she encounters the Viscount Tewkesbury Marquees of Basilweather while traveling to London. Subsequently saving the lad from a bowler cap wearing assassin, the duo maneuver under the radar to the city. Tewkesbury’s introduction brings a new perspective into the story as the expectations his family have set for him do not conform to his ideas of what he wants out of life either.
Enola Holmes is a lot of fun at times and offers a unique perspective on detective stories. The cast is fantastic and charming. Helena Bonham Carter steals most of her scenes even with simple facial expressions. And in a dress shop scene where the shopkeeper condescends to Enola because she doesn’t look the part, there’s an air reminiscent of Julia Roberts’ shopping scene in Pretty Woman. I began to see Millie Bobby Brown’s potential in rising to that level of on-screen success.
I know some may roll their eyes at this, but I am quite a fan of the fourth wall breaking in action comedies. This is a move that Deadpool pulled off brilliantly and has since become increasingly common. Movies are meant to be fun. Their general prowess is to provide entertainment. When Enola talks to the audience to interweave her history with the story, this feels far more natural to me than movies that keep cutting back to however many years ago to provide a backstory. In Enola Holmes’ case it works akin to that of Deadpool’s—told with humor and character musings which help us enjoy the character that much more.
The movie unfolds the way an old Sherlock story would, with seemingly standalone incidents becoming a singular, larger case, the intent of the film seemingly ideal for inviting new fans of detective stories into becoming better searchers for clues. Stemming from a subtle clue in the first ten to fifteen minutes, the whodunit of it all will be wrapped up for most viewers within the first hour. After that it’s about another half hour for the viewer to connect the dots back to their suspect. As Sherlock says, “The truth is always there, you just have to look for it.”
There are many themes in Enola Holmes I really enjoy, but not all of them ever peak. The fight for female empowerment and the right to have a choice is impeccably felt, especially in scenes where Enola challenges obedience of a male dominant culture. The film also sets up allusions of a suffragette feminism movement that become key in shaping the plot. However, beyond a few flyers and slight nuances this theme never reaches a full realization. There are also some real strong ideas on how far that movement is willing to go, yet we never see resolution to that storyline either.
Furthermore, the plotline to what should be a lighthearted teenage adventure is convoluted by its political conveyance. The film’s heart is in the right place, it just never presents the whole entanglement clearly. I believe much of the film’s intended target audience will grow bored or not understand the plot.
From a technical standpoint I also had a problem with some dialogue bits. Some of the film’s redubbing comes out in a muted tone. Many films replace dialogue that has been washed out or had various malfunctions and you’d hardly ever notice. A few times I caught the sound design flaw. In one particular scene, where Enola and Tewkesbury discuss their plan in her room, it was downright bothersome.
Someone asked me earlier what I thought of the film and I told them, “Enola Holmes is really good, until it isn’t,” and that’s the truth. Something always enjoyable about the Sherlock Holmes adventures is that the person whodunit isn’t always the only person involved. What I expected to be a double arc never played out and as a result the ending seems to meander. I very much thought this film would have that affectation.
Regardless, the cast is fantastic. Millie Bobby Brown is utterly charming. And there’s still a bit of fun to be found in this. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more adventures of Enola Holmes soon.