There have been many – many – adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, but Enola Holmes puts a new spin on the classic character by following his little sister instead. The new Netflix movie is based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries book series by Nancy Springer, particularly the first book, The Case of the Missing Marquess. The film was directed by Harry Bradbeer (Fleabag) from a script by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). Enola Holmes is a little overwrought, but Millie Bobby Brown’s charming heroine and Henry Cavill’s fun Sherlock pull off all the twists and turns.
The movie starts off when Enola’s (Brown) mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing. The disappearance necessitates Enola’s two older brothers – Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Cavill) – return home for the first time in a long time, and they’re dismayed to see that Enola hasn’t been raised to be a proper lady. Though Mycroft desires to send Enola to a finishing school, Enola runs away to look for her mother, and stumbles upon the young Viscount Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), who has also run away from home. With her brothers on her heels and her determination to learn where her mother has gone, Enola doesn’t have time to get mixed up with the young Lord, but that changes when she discovers his life is in danger.
Perhaps a symptom of being adapted from a book, Enola Holmes has one too many storylines threaded throughout the movie, creating an overcomplicated narrative that doesn’t quite get resolved by the end of the two-hour runtime. For instance, though it might seem like Eudoria’s disappearance is the main mystery of Enola Holmes, it’s not. Instead, Tewksbury becomes the main mystery – but not until after a considerable amount of screentime has been dedicated to both Enola and Sherlock searching for their mother. As for the mystery of Eudoria, that’s set up to be further explored in a sequel, which is frustrating given the amount of time spent on her disappearance even if it does ultimately also serve the storyline around Tewksbury. But for all these frustrations with the story, the characters and performances are compelling enough to keep viewers engaged in the film.
Much of Enola Holmes‘ success comes from Brown’s spirited and clever performance as the titular heroine. Enola is a smart, strong and well-educated young woman who’s meant to rival Sherlock in his detective skills, and Brown plays the part well, bringing a charm that many portrayals of Sherlock don’t have, giving the movie a strong heart at the center of the convoluted storyline. In addition, Cavill’s Sherlock does have his own kind of charm, as the character is much warmer than typically portrayed, and he has a fondness for Enola that creates a fun dynamic between the detective siblings. Claflin’s Mycroft isn’t given much to work with in Enola Holmes, as the movie positions him more as a villain of sorts, an obstacle for Enola to overcome. The rest of the supporting cast are similarly underserved by the script, even Carter’s Eudoria, though there’s potential for the other members of the Holmes family to be explored in a sequel. In the end, Enola Holmes is Brown’s movie, and she – along with Cavill – carries the film well.
Ultimately, Enola Holmes is a fun and entertaining mystery movie, even if it tries to be too clever at times. The movie having Enola break the fourth wall and speak to the audience is a neat gimmick that’s used smartly, though it doesn’t necessarily bring anything to the story. Really, the fourth wall breaking is meant to deliver all the necessary exposition, while relying on Brown’s charm to keep viewers engaged as she’s talking at them – and thankfully she does. Perhaps its biggest strength is giving audiences a strong sense of who Enola is as a character, though that too is also spelled out in a list of things the viewer needs to know about Enola. Still, it’s Enola’s character that really makes the story work, and Enola Holmes smartly plays that up, which effectively distracts from the overcomplicated story.
It’s perhaps best that Enola Holmes is releasing on Netflix, where viewers of the streamer’s other properties Stranger Things and The Witcher already know Brown and Cavill. Fans of the actors would do well with checking out Enola Holmes, as they both shine in the film. It’s also worth a watch for anyone in need of a new, fun adventure movie, or those interested in a new type of Sherlock Holmes story. It certainly makes for a more family-friendly adaptation, providing entertainment for adults and kids alike. It’s not necessarily the best Netflix movie the streamer has released, nor is it anywhere near the worst. With the strength of its cast and their charming performances, Enola Holmes offers a perfectly enjoyable viewing experience, making it worth a watch but not necessarily a must-see.
Enola Holmes is now streaming on Netflix. It is 123 minutes long and rated PG-13 for some violence.
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