When it comes to properties that have undergone the prequel, sequel, everything inbetween-quel treatment, it’s fair to say that Sherlock Holmes is right up there at the top end of the list. Off the top of my head I can think of about four different versions of the iconic literary character, but a character that, until last week, I had never heard of, is his little sister. In what is turning into the major 2020 trend for film, I headed over to Netflix to see what was up.
Based on a series of novels by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes is a mystery adventure that focuses not on the infamous Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill), but rather his teenage sister Enola (Millie Bobby Brown). When the family’s mother (Helena Bonham-Carter) goes missing, Enola takes it upon herself to leave home for the first time and follow a string of clues that lead her to the hustle and bustle of Edwardian London, and the various friends and enemies that lie within it.
Now, for the nitty gritty of opinion. As I watched Enola Holmes, I couldn’t help but think that if I was twelve, this film would have rocked my world. With a strong, smart, self sufficient young adult female protagonist and a fun story to follow, Enola Holmes is pretty much the perfect kind of mystery adventure movie for kids who are looking for something that feels cool whilst being very much a period piece. With the advantage (or disadvantage?) of age, however, it does feel like I am about seventeen years over the target audience.
This demographic disconnect is felt most strongly in the mystery mechanics and in the puppy love elements of the plot. To an adult, the narrative feels either too simple or too chased respectively, but the tone probably ands perfectly for a young teen audience.
Having said that, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Enola Holmes is simply an all round fun time. Whether you, as an adult, find yourself one step ahead of the plot or not, what is guaranteed is a story filled with enjoyable characters, enjoyable performances and an eccentric sensibility that puts the period setting very much under a modern lens. Director Harry Bradbeer’s previous credits include Fleabag and Killing Eve, and as strange as it sounds for what is essentially a kid’s movie, that vibe is very much present throughout! From fourth wall breaks to some genuinely sharp, funny humour, the DNA of some much more adult projects is present here, but Enola Holmes does stay very much within the family friendly arena.
Anyone who watches Stranger Things will know just how great Millie Bobby Brown is, and she is absolutely perfect casting as the title character. Compared to the slightly removed, monosyllabic nature of Stranger Things’ Eleven, Brown really gets to spread her wings as Enola Holmes; a cheeky, intelligent, brave, daring sixteen year old knows what she wants and comes up with fun ways to get it.
Brown’s main screen companion is Louis Partridge as Viscount Tewkesbury, a fellow runaway teen with whom Enola strikes a connection that is equal parts friendly and flirtatious. Partridge is by no means as impressive as Millie Bobby Brown, but with his boyish good looks there is no doubt that he is destined to be become a new screen crush for many.
The film is peppered with a number of high quality supporting performances from the likes of Helena Bonham-Carter, Sam Claflin, Fiona Shaw and Frances de la Tour, with, of course, Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes taking the crown for most notable notable role. Interestingly, Cavill’s Sherlock is a very restrained, ‘normal’ take on the character. In his few scenes, there are no eccentric deductions, no deer stalker hats, no big ah-ha moments on his behalf. I love this choice for the character, as it leaves the focus rightly on Enola rather than Sherlock, with Cavill very much assuming the role of big brother over superstar detective.
Overall, Enola Holmes, though certainly for a younger audience, is a good old fashioned time. Like I said, it very much feels like a film for tweens, but it is certainly no crime for a picture targeting young people to present itself as such! I have no doubt that a series of sequels are already planned to turn this into a real franchise, and I can’t say that I wouldn’t be interested in exploring this universe further. With Millie Bobby Brown in the driver’s seat and a bunch of great cast and characters around her, this could well turn into something cool and long lasting.