Movie Review: Enola Holmes
Enola Holmes is about the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Like her brothers, Enola's clever, intelligent, resourceful, and inquisitive. When the Holmes siblings' mother, Eudoria, disappears, Enola sets out on her own journey for answers and to make her own destiny rather than the one Mycroft would like to thrust upon her. The film stars Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Louis Partridge, Burn Gorman, Adeel Akhtar, Susan Wokoma, Frances De La Tour, and Helena Bonham Carter. The film is directed by Harry Bradbeer and written by Jack Thorne. The film is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
This movie is an absolute charm bomb. What could have been a hackneyed conceit ("Sherlock Holmes has a kid sister!?!?!? Whaaaaat?!?!") is actually incredibly well executed. Enola Holmes is better executed than it could have been because the film isn't just a Sherlock Holmes story masquerading as something new. Enola herself is a fully realized character and thinker in her own right. She has her own dreams, aptitudes and life outside of her brothers despite their fame. That and she's no Mary Sue.
Often when a project like this is executed, the new female heroine is imbued with invulnerability and infallibility, but Enola is flawed. She's never been out into the world at large, misses the deceitfulness in human nature, gets hurt, makes mistakes and is rendered powerless in a believable way. She also gets beaten in fights handily. There's also no washing over of the gender politics of the time she in which she exists. She and we are never made to forget that she is a woman in late Victorian England. Despite her rambunctious nature, she never feels false to the time, often knowing its better to blend in by dressing in male clothes to blend in rather than the clothes of a lady.
Women are at the forefront of the film's plot. Enola's mother is revealed to be a revolutionary and a suffragette with a network of other women working toward a common goal. In one of the best scenes of the film, Sherlock, a beneficiary of the patriarchy, is put in his place. Edith, a colleague of Eudoria and a Jiujitsu teacher, shows Sherlock exactly what his privilege is. Despite being a relatively progressive social character, Sherlock is regressive in his ideas about gender. His apolitical self and air of apathy toward petty human things is precisely because his privilege allows for him to be who he is because people like him disenfranchise others. It's a great scene that's not preachy, or too, "You go girl," but strikes just the right tone and hits in the right place.
What never hits in the right place for me, though, is the romantic subplot. Enola needs a friend, she needs interaction with people her own age and it bothers me that the first boy she meets in the real world is enamored with her. I knew it was coming. As soon as Tewkesbury popped out of the carpet bag, I sighed. I knew that this would be an attempt to force characters together in the name of heteronormative romantic subplot necessity. If there happens to be a sequel, no doubt there will be another boy introduced to create tension for an unnecessary part of the plot.
Wholly necessary, welcome, surprising, and charming, though is Millie Bobby Brown as Enola. Her most famous role to date is as a dour, powerful, tacit hero on Stranger Things, so to see her hear speaking, laughing, crying, inspiring, and winning is a welcome and fabulous show of her range. Brown brings an entire life and energy to Enola that is riveting. I wasn't even that bothered by the fourth wall breaking narration or looks to camera because she's able to pull it off so very well. I'm so excited for the incredible implications for the career she has ahead of her.
Enola Holmes works as an entry point for a new teen franchise. Enola Holmes works as a new interpretation of familiar characters. Enola Holmes even works as an allegory for the political battle between the old guard who fear sharing their power and the progressive forces doing everything to ensure equity for all people. Enola Holmes really works and I highly recommend you take the time to watch it because you will be glad you did.