As soon as the first trailer for Enola Holmes landed I was sure that I was going to like this film -that as a fan of Sherlock Holmes I’d find something here to enjoy. It takes a new approach to the source material, does some fun things, and has a great cast. I awaited the release with bated breath, hoping that this would be one of the better movie adaptations of a Holmes book; and I was not disappointed.
Based upon the Young Adult book series by Nancy Springer, which centres on Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown), the younger sister of Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin), the film sees Enola being raised by her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) in the countryside, away from the eyes of her brothers. When Mrs Holmes one day goes missing, Sherlock and Mycroft come home, but not to help Enola like she thinks. Instead, Mycroft tries to have Enola shipped off to a private finishing school to make her into a ‘proper’ lady. Enola has other plans, however, and finding clues left behind by her mother, sets out on a mission to find her.
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I’m always wary of Sherlock Holmes fiction that tries to do something new with the original characters, especially adding new siblings into the mix. Enola never featured in the original stories, and I was worried this could end up being another Sherlock series four; but I was really pleasantly surprised. It’s clear very quickly that both Nancy Springer, and the screenwriter Jack Thorne, know a fair bit about the mythology, and wanted to create something that fits in with what fans like. As such, Enola is very much like Sherlock.
She’s a smart girl, raised to be an independent thinker, to see problems and try to use her mind to find a solution. She’s also trained to be physically fit, and even knows martial arts in order to protect herself. In a lot of ways, she’s very much her older brother. However, as a girl she faces a lot of issues. Very few people in the story take her seriously, and dismiss her out of hand most of the time. This isn’t just something for Enola to have to overcome over the course of the film, but something that proves to be important to the plot itself as the film deals with the developing suffrage movement.
This plot also leads into a secondary story that takes up a good amount of the runtime of the film, and helps to develop Enola into a star detective in her own right. Whilst escaping her brothers she meets a runaway teen, the young Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), who is fleeing from a deadly assassin (Burn Gorman). Over the course of the film Enola comes to realise that in order to help her find herself, she has to help Tewksbury, and sets out on a journey that leads her into deadly danger.
The intertwining of the two stories works really well, and as the film goes on it becomes more and more obvious that the two mysteries are if not connected then thematically resonant of each other, and both vitally important to Enola growing into herself. It also means that you never get a moment to be bored, watching this brilliant young woman juggling two mysteries at the same time.
It’s not just Enola who gets a chance to shine, however, as her older brothers are both great, and have some truly stand out moments. Claflin really stands out as Mycroft, and there are times where you really hate him. He’s a character that’s always skirted the line between lovable and annoying, and you can understand that he truly believes he’s doing the right things here, but the way Claflin plays him just makes him seem like a dick. It’s also shocking to realise that he’s younger than Cavill, but completely sells being the older, more world weary sibling.
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Cavill himself doesn’t do a huge amount, and plays a much more bored Holmes, but there are some hugely charming moments that really sell you on his version of the character, and one particular, small moment had me laughing out loud for how perfect he was as the character. Whilst I’m hoping we get more films in the franchise for Enola herself, I’d also love to see more of these two too.
Enola Holmes proved to be everything I was hoping it was. It delivered on the tone of the trailer, giving audiences a fun, fast paced mystery adventure story with a charming lead. Millie Bobby Brown really shone here, and it is easily my favourite of her performances.
Netflix Original Enola Holmes launches on Netflix on 23rd September 2020.