Feeling in the mood for a good old-fashioned mystery? Well, Netflix’s new release, Enola Holmes, might tickle your fancy. With a packed cast (Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter), it’s sure to attract quite a bit of attention from a lot of people despite no one really knowing anything about it until it came out.
I’ve got to say that I was a bit skeptical about this one. I’ve become a little weary of all these Sherlock Holmes adaptations throughout the years, and I feel like this film was riding on the familiarity of the character. I know that the characters of Sherlock Holmes and company have a lot to do with the plot of this film, but I feel like you could tell the same story with Enola without needing her to be related to the famous detective. These characters have been redone so many times that even Will Ferrell tried his hand at playing Sherlock Holmes!
The premise of this film is that Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes have a younger sister named Enola. Because her father died and her brothers left home when she was young, Enola was raised single-handedly by their mother. But she’s not raised like most girls! No! She reads books! She knows science! And she knows karate! And she doesn’t waste time with no embroidery! Her mother makes sure that she’s NOT like other girls. And then, one day, after having raised her for sixteen years, she disappears. Determined to understand why she left, Enola Holmes is on the case to find her missing mother. While on the hunt, Enola comes across a young, runaway lord who is entangled in a political scandal and she becomes distracted from her search for her mother.
This film has plenty of enjoyable classic mystery aspects, but honestly, I had a hard time staying invested in the story. It’s not that it was necessarily bad, I just didn’t feel like this film was made for me. The target audience is teenaged girls, which is totally fine. I’m just not one. The story felt dumbed down compared to the more recent adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, such as the Robert Downey, Jr. flicks or the BBC Sherlock series. I am glad that they didn’t make Enola super-intelligent right off the bat. Her intelligence felt more realistic and natural. But the consequence of that makes it more appealing to younger audiences than to people like me. It felt more like “Nancy Drew set in 19th century England.”
She often broke the fourth wall, and that didn’t help the film any. Millie Bobby Brown interacts with the audience through the camera in an almost Deadpool style. Even though some of it is charming, a lot of it feels like the film is holding your hand throughout the story, which further makes it clear to me it is intended for a young audience.
The performances are decent. Millie Bobby Brown shines and proves herself as a fine actor even outside of Stranger Things. Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin also are appropriately cast as the Holmes brothers. I would honestly rather watch an actual Sherlock-focused movie or show with Cavill playing the titular role. And Helena Bonham Carter is as charming as ever as the matriarchal figure of the Holmes family. Louis Partridge did fine next to Millie as the young Lord Tewkesbury, but he mostly just felt like a cute boy for teen girls to gush over.
My biggest problem was with the way some of the characters were written, especially Mycroft Holmes and Inspector Lestrade. They are made out to be almost villainous. I grew up a very big fan of all things Sherlock Holmes. I read some of the stories as a kid. I watched the old Basil Rathbone films. I watched some of the cartoons. And of course, as an adult, I’ve watched the more recent adaptations. Most of the time, Mycroft is portrayed as a snob and a bit of a jerk. Lestrade is usually portrayed as a bumbling fool but always a loyal friend to Sherlock. Never have either of them ever been portrayed as the bad guys. In fact, Lestrade is very corrupt in this film. I just wasn’t happy with the way these characters were treated.
This film has a strong message of being your own person and following your destiny, which is fine, but, oftentimes, it seems to have this underlying feminist and borderline anti-men and anti-marriage message to it. Thankfully, it’s not on-the-nose; it’s surprisingly vague. But it is definitely there, as there is a suffragette movement going on in the background.
Helena Bonham Carter’s character even turns out to be a political activist of a feminist group that has bombs and gunpowder in its possession for some reason? At one point in the film, she says something along the lines of, “Sometimes, you have to make some noise to make a change.” The film doesn’t challenge that viewpoint. It almost seems like this movie is endorsing violence for political purposes.
Other than those concerns, this film is alright. It’s competently shot, edited, and scored. The CGI was a bit off at times, but the performances are still good and there are plenty of fun moments in the story. You might enjoy this one, but, for me, this case is closed and I don’t intend to open it back up anytime soon.
Writer and Movie Reviewer
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