Film Review: Enola Holmes
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Streaming on Netflix: 09.23
In my recent review of The Secret Garden, I remarked that there are some stories we never get tired of as long as they are well told … and then proceeded to rip the film to shreds. It’s ironic then, that a month later, we’re on a similar theme with the concept applying to some well-traveled characters: In this case, Sherlock Holmes. But to make things even more ironic, Enola Holmes, the new Netflix film starring Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things has a screenplay by Jack Thorne, the very same writer who gave us that dreadful take on The Secret Garden.
I’ve been a Sherlockian since I was young, and I’ve enjoyed almost every version I’ve seen (though some are certainly far better than others). I am a devoted fan who knows the character well and can’t stand it when a film totally misses the essence of the man, but I’m not a purist. While Jeremy Brett gave what I consider to be the definitive portrayal of the character as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I thoroughly enjoy different interpretations, including those of Iron Man and Doctor Strange. In Enola Holmes, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Superman makes a solid addition to that rather specific league of Baker Street Superheroes.
Based on the popular series of novels by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes centers on the famous detective’s younger sister. On the morning of her 16th birthday, Enola (Brown) awakens to the shocking discovery that her mother (Helena Bonham Carter, Howards End, The King’s Speech) has abruptly disappeared, leaving behind an odd assortment of gifts but no apparent clue as to where she has gone—or for that matter—why she has gone.
Up to now raised by her mother to be a free spirit, Enola suddenly finds herself under the care of her brothers, Mycroft (Sam Claflin, The Hunger Games sequels, Journey’s End), and Sherlock (Henry Cavill, Man of Steel, The Witcher), both of whom are set on sending her away to a finishing school for “proper” young ladies. Refusing to follow their wishes, Enola escapes to search for her missing mother in London. But when her journey finds her entangled in a mystery surrounding a young runaway Lord (Louis Partridge, Paddington 2, Medici), Enola becomes a super-sleuth in her own right, outwitting her famous brother as she unravels a sinister conspiracy.
Enola Holmes was originally meant for theatrical release, but due to the current state of things, it was sent to Netflix, who may well finally have a solid film franchise on their hands. Millie Bobby Brown couldn’t be more endearing in the title role if she tried, and the angle of having her talk directly to the camera à la Ferris Bueller is quite a good one. Thorne has written a spirited and intelligent script, and director Harry Bradbeer (Killing Eve, Fleabag) makes an impressive feature debut, approaching it with a style that owes more than a little to Guy Ritchie without feeling like he’s lifted that director’s flair entirely, and the movie has a breezy and adventurous family-friendly feel to it. While there is some violence, it’s overall pretty mild.
Cavill makes for a more soft-spoken Sherlock, a much less snide and contemptuous version than we’ve gotten of late, but still a self-absorbed egotist who lives only for the game. Claflin, a good actor who rarely gets to be in good films, does well as Mycroft, though he’s ultimately too young for the role. Moreover, the script plays him as an ambitious stuffed shirt, considerably less brilliant than he’s meant to be. Bonham Carter doesn’t get enough screen time to show off what a glorious actress she can be, but on the other hand, she doesn’t sing, and for that I am grateful.
But Enola Holmes belongs to Brown, the young First Lady of Netflix, and it’s a perfect star vehicle for her considerable magnetism. With the growing question of just how much longer Stranger Things can last with the stars getting up there in their late teens, now is the perfect time for such an offering. I deduce that we’ll be seeing more of Enola in the future, and I for one will eagerly await her next adventure. –Patrick Gibbs