Release Date: September 23, 2020
Runtime: 123 mins
Directed by: Harry Bradbeer
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown
Helena Bonham Carter
In the past several years alone there have been several movies and shows featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective character. Netflix’s new film, “Enola Holmes,” takes advantage of this character being in the public domain and gives him a little sister. The change that comes along with a woman being the lead character in a Sherlock Holmes story is not merely cosmetic, though. “Enola Holmes” focuses on the gender politics of the late nineteenth century English society which typically surrounds the Holmes character. The character of Enola is just as intelligent as her brother, but society nevertheless expects different things from them. It sees her purpose as that of a wife and mother and expects her to be in a constant state of repose. The central plot line even deals with the legalization of female suffrage.
Along with these themes, “Enola Holmes” is helped along tremendously by the enormous talents of its young star, Millie Bobby Brown. She fills the character with high levels of pathos and a sharp wit and charm that make the movie excel to heights which a lesser actress could not have reached.. The rest of the cast performs their roles well, too, but Brown is definitely the standout.
Although the Holmes franchise is known for its mystery, “Enola” fits more into an action-adventure box. It contains a mystery, of course, but the main focus is on set pieces and excitement. Moving trains, dingy London alleyways and regal English manors provide for well-executed fight scenes. The editing keeps the movie fast-paced and moving even outside of action sequences.
The mystery element of the story suffers partly because of this main focus on action. Whenever Enola encounters something she needs to solve to get further in the story, the method in which she solves it is presented in an unnatural and hurried way. She will see, hear or remember something and have a Jimmy Neutron “brain blast” moment where she instantly knows the answer to her problem. It is hard to identify with the character’s thought process and how she works through the issue. To be perfectly fair, this is an issue that is ever-present in many Holmes adaptations.
The plot of “Enola Holmes” seems a little confused. It starts out as an investigation into the whereabouts of Enola’s missing mother but about halfway through the goal shifts to protecting a young lord. In the end, it is revealed that these goals were related, but there are questions and apparent ethical conflicts raised in the first part which are never fully addressed.
“Enola Holmes” is fun time: the editing is exciting, the action is fast-paced, and the performances are energetic. When compared to the two prominent Sherlock Holmes adaptations from the last decade, “Enola Holmes” is closer in tone and style to the Robert Downey Jr. series of films than the BBC “Sherlock” series. It was a cute watch, but I do not see myself thinking back on it or revisiting it ever again. It might be a little too intense at moments for very young audiences, but I think the film is best suited for children 10 and up. If that more or less fits the mold of your own family, this is definitely something everyone should be able to find something to enjoy in.